This year, for the first time I can recall, the first night of Chanukah was Christmas Eve. For those that don’t know, the Jewish festival of lights lasts 8 days (measured from sun-down to sun-down), and moves around the Gregorian calendar because the Jewish calendar is lunar. So that means in 2016 it spanned all the way from Christmas to New Year!

The traditional game of Chanukah is dreidel – a betting game played with a four-sided spinning top, that determines whether you do nothing, add to the pile in the middle, take half the pile or take everything. We played with the traditional stakes (maybe only in my family): chocolate coins. Despite confusion over the rules of the game, which definitely made it worse, I’m pretty sure the game is just as bad as I’ve always remembered it.

As with any gambling, the game seems reliant on people really caring about losing their stake, which makes it an unlikely candidate for a friendly, familial game to be played with small children. We had to abandon the game when the child whose chocolate coins had been requisition from looked like she was going to cry… and she wasn’t even participating in the game!

I’m sure there must be something in dreidel that I’m not seeing – after all, it’s lasted a couple of thousand years. Maybe I need to see it done at a professional level – say at the Dreidel World Championships – to really get it. For now, it eludes me!

Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call – Richard Lewis

Ease of play: 9/10

Resemblance to play: 7/10 

Aggression: Medium-to-High

Speed: Medium-to-Fast

Enjoyability: Low (sorry!)

Potential frequency of play: Low (it’s seasonal!)


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