Music Trekking: Games and Music for Hanukkah

Watch a Little Dreydl Spin!

December is such an exciting time of year as folks prepare for holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. For those who are celebrating Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, there are goodies to prepare, a menorah to light with it’s eight special candles, relatives to greet and a wonderful little game to play based on a top that spins, called the dreydl (or dreidel).

So why is it called a dreydyl? The word “dreyen” in Yiddish means “to spin” so the name makes perfect sense. The dreydyl song talks about a toy made out of clay and it is certain that the first dreydls were made this way. If you have one today – it is probably made from either wood or plastic. And it will have four Hebrew letters on it. What does each letter mean? Well, it tells the tale behind Hanukkah, how a very small bit of oil that should have lasted only a short time was miraculously able to burn in the Temple for 8 days! It spoke volumes to the Jewish people about how God was able to provide for those who were faithful. If you watch the video, the letters will appear and you can see their meaning as well as how they relate to playing the game.

If you’d like to play the dreydl game at home, you’ll need a pile of goodies. You can use walnuts, candies, pennies or special chocolate coins called Hanukkah gelt (literally, Hanukkah money). Everyone takes a turn spinning the top and they either pass their turn, add a treat to the pot, take half of the pot or take it all. What fun!

Is this a custom your family does around the holidays? If so, why not share it with some friends and teach them about the things you do. If not, what are the special customs that mean the most to your loved ones? Can you share them with your neighbors or friends so they can enjoy them as well.

Whatever holidays you celebrate – may they be bright, beautiful and full of love!


Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website,, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

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