An Origami Dreidel for a Happy Hanukkah!

Origami Dreidel by Yami Yamauchi "An Origami Dreidel for a Happy Hanukkah!" -

“I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.”

Traditional Dreidel Song

About the Origami Dreidel

Not everybody celebrates Christmas and this year, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah is celebrated 24 December to 1 January, so I thought I’d recognise that with an origami dreidel model, designed by Yami Yamauchi. Unlike the traditional Dreidel Song, this Origami Dreidel isn’t made of clay, it’s made of paper!

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Having decided to fold a dreidel, I had to find out a bit more about it! According to Wikipedia:

A Dreidel is a four sided spinning top that children traditionally play with during the festival of Hannukah. Each side has a Hebrew letter printed on it:

These letters are an abbreviation for the Hebrew words נס גדול היה שם (Nes Gadol Haya Sham, “A great miracle happened there”), referring to the miracle of the oil that took place in the Beit Hamikdash.

Tradition has it that the reason the dreidel game is played is to commemorate a game devised by the Jews to camouflage the fact that they were studying Torah, which was outlawed by the Seleucids. The Jews would gather in caves to study, posting a lookout to alert the group to the presence of Seleucid soldiers. If soldiers were spotted, the Jews would hide their scrolls and spin tops, so the Seleucids thought they were gambling, not studying.[

Folding the Origami Dreidel

This is a simple Hanukkah origami model to make, which seems appropriate for a children’s toy. The model is made from four pieces of paper. To achieve the best results, use two different colours, two sheets of each. One sheet forms the inside part of the dreidel and the point.

This is basically a Waterbomb adapted for the purpose. Another is rolled up and stuck into the first one as a handle. The other two sheets then wrap round the paper dreidel and tuck inside each other to form the four smooth sides.

Four sheets of origami paper, 15cm x 15cm (6in x 6in) will make a dreidel that is about 10-15cm (about 4-6in) long, depending on the length of the handle. I use paper from Folded Square as I have found the quality is better than other coloured paper you might find.  The Origami Dreidel takes about ten minutes to make.

Instructions to Fold an Origami Dreidel

Jo Nakashima has made a tutorial video, showing how to fold this Origami Dreidel. This is clear and easy to follow. The video says you need two sheets of paper that are 10cm x 10cm, and two that are 2.5cm x 2.5cm. I don’t think this is correct: I followed Jo Nakashima’s instructions and successfully made the dreidel in the picture using four sheets of paper the same size! More origami tutorials from Jo Nakashima are available on his YouTube Channel.

Playing with the Origami Dreidel

Also according to Wikipedia, this is how to play the dreidel game:

Each player begins with an equal number of game pieces (usually 10–15). The game pieces can be any object, such as chocolate gelt, pennies, or raisins.

  • At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot”. Every player puts one in the pot after every turn.
  • Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which player side is facing up when it stops spinning, they give or take game pieces from the pot:
    • a) If נ‎ (nun) facing up, the player does nothing.
    • b) If ג‎ (gimel) is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
    • c) If ה‎ (he) is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes the half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number)
    • d) If ש‎ (shin) or פ‎ (pe) is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot (often accompanied with the chant “Shin, Shin, put one in”[9]). In some game versions a Shin results in adding three game pieces to the pot (one for each stem of the Shin).
  • If the player is out of pieces, they are either “out” or may ask another player for a “loan”

More information

Wikipedia entry for Hanukkah

Wikipedia entry for Dreidel

Get Involved

I’d love to hear your views on this origami dreidel model or any other Jewish holiday origami. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below, or you find can me on Instagram or Twitter. Check out my Pinterest boards too!

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About the Author


Russell has been folding origami since he was 8 years old and has recently written the book, Origami Made Simple. He is on the Council for the British Origami Society and a member of OrigamiUSA. When he is not folding, he enjoys photography and traveling.

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