This year, two traditions of remembrance and eating are coming together in a way they haven’t in over 100 years. Instead of waiting over 70-thousand more years for it to happen again, take advantage of the rare confluence of the Jewish festival Hanukkah and American Thanksgiving. What better way to celebrate this than with food?
One fixture to Hanukkah is the dreidel game. It’s played with a simple, four-sided top inscribed with a Hebrew letter on each side. Traditionally, the letters are nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. Usually the stakes consist of gelt, foil-wrapped pieces of chocolate in the shapes of coins. You spin the top and depending on which letter winds up on top, you either do nothing (nun), take everything in the pot (gimmel), take half the pot (hey), or give up all your winnings to the pot (shin).
But to combine this history with tastes from the traditional Thanksgiving table, I created a Thanksgiving dessert dreidel.
The Point Comes First
I started with a 2x2 piece of clear pine. I knew I’d be cutting the tip of the dreidel into a point, so I selected the wood with the tightest grain possible. I measured 2 inches from the bottom of the wood and marked a matching line on all four sides.
Setting a miter saw to a 45-degree bevel, I slowly cut down into the wood, matching the saw edge with the line I’d marked. When one cut was made, I rotated the stock and buzzed off the next edge. Repeating this process two more times, I created a pyramid shaped point on the end of the square stock. I first tried this with a 30-degree bevel, but the angle wasn’t steep enough to make a dramatic point for the top to spin on.
Racking the saw back to a 90 degree bevel, I cut the other end of the dreidel, leaving enough room for proper proportion as well as giving me some space to draw the dessert symbols.
Get a Grip
You need a stem to hold and spin the dreidel, so I clamped it in a vise and drilled a ¾ inch hole into the flat side opposite the point. I cut a dowel of the same diameter to stand about 2 inches proud of the dreidel and glued it into the hole.
Once the glue was dry and the dowel was secure, I sanded all the surfaces by hand to remove any of the machine marks from the saw blades and clamps. After that it was ready for the designs.
Time for Dessert
Of course I had to have gelt as one of the desserts, so there were three more to choose from. When you say Thanksgiving, someone is sure to shout “pumpkin pie!” so I made that another dessert for the dreidel. Because Hanukkah is tied to a miracle of oil lamps, frying food is very traditional, and one of the best fried desserts is the donut, making it an easy addition. Completing the four sides was the Thanksgiving and all-around standby: apple pie.
I drew these designs on the sides of the dreidel with a pencil. In respect to the actual dreidel and its roots, I added the traditional Hebrew letters of the game on their respective sides.
With the dreidel complete, all that was left was assembling all the desserts and taking it for a spin.