Thursday, December 02, 2010

Enlighten the Gentiles #39: Dreidel Or: The Song I Hated

A dreidel or dreydel is a small top, originally made of clay, but now made of wood, plastic, metal, etc.
You pronounce it "dray-dle". A child's toy, it has no more religious significance than its use as a ploy to explain why Jewish men in times gone by were gathered in a group of more than 10 ( known as a minyan) to pray in places where they were not allowed to practice their religion--"But Officer! We're just all here gambling!"   Now kids use it with gold foil wrapped chocolate coins (gelt) or pennies or other candies to play games at Hanukkah. You can get the rules here, or go 21st century and  play with a virtual dreidel  here.

Back in dear old PS 95 in the Bronx, back in the days before secularism crept into the curriculum beyond belief, we used to sing Hanukkah and Christmas songs, and I always HATED  "I Have A Little Dreidel"
I don't know why. Perhaps it was because of the endless "oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel" chorus. Mainly, I just thought it was dumb.

But now I'm singing it every Hanukkah at the library because of this book:

This book uses the "Dreidl" song, one I hated in childhood, beautifully--I actually ENJOY singing that chorus.
In fact, you can hear me sing the whole book here:

This is book has lovely illustrations and adds to the song a story line with a family  Hanukkah celebration featuring latke making, a menorah lighting and dreydl play, but NO nonsense about a "tradition" for eight presents!
If you've read me in times past (and thanks) you know that I detest the use of Hanukkah as a pseudo Christmas. As far as I'm concerned, if you're that religious to be uncomfortable with Christmas, then you should be a meanie and tell your kids--"no presents, we're Jewish" as they did back in my dad's generation, and for a lot of kids in mine!

Before this, the only version of the song I liked came from a wonderful, but alas short lived animated show called "The Critic". The Man has it on DVD as it was a favorite of ours when SC was little, and she learned to utter the immortal words "It stinks!"  even when her diaper was NOT involved. :D

So here's that moment to enjoy. And again, Happy Hanukkah!


Saints and Spinners said...

Happy Hanukkah! I was never a fan of the song, either, until I realized I could sing it as a play on my daughter's name ("Madda-ladle").

By the way, I really like your speaking voice in addition to your singing voice.

Anonymous said...


This was awesome! So great to hear your voice in your podcast, and that Rabbi PI clip is hysterical. I was a fan of Arnold during his movie career. Previously, the version of this song that came to my mind was Raffi's, so for banishing that, I thank you endlessly!

The Library Lady said...

Thank you for the compliment, Farida. Personally, I think I sound like Melissa Gilbert with a bit of a Jewish accent, and that's NOT something I like. I like the way I sound singing this song though--it's really in what range I have.

Come to think of it, you could do something with this song and the word maidel (girl), couldn't you.

Glad you liked it,De. I heartily recommend The Critic--it's great snarky work. Arnold wasn't the only one they skewered.