Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Out Of Clay? A Chanuka Dissertation That Gets Very Silly Indeed

You all know the song:

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
I made you out of clay,
And when you're dry and--and--and--

Made out of clay???

Raise your hand if any of you have ever played with a dreidel made out of clay.


Hmm, thought not. In fact, I don't think a dreidel made out of clay would even spin very well. It'd be way too heavy!

According to this site, they did used to use clay to spin cloth. But that is not the sort of spinning we're interested in, is it?

Here, finally, is archeological evidence to support the song we all learned in nursery:
- Clay tops were found in the ancient city of Ur dating from 3500 B.C. (Ur is modern day Muqayyar which lies 187 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq)

- Fired clay spun type tops were found from Thebes, Greece dated at 1250 B.C.

However, it appears from that article that the spinning top category the dreidel falls into, the "Twirler," was never made of clay but rather of some sort of fruit or seed with a thorn on the bottom to make it spin. Later versions were made of wood (or plastic). In China, they have tops of this sort made of bamboo. In Japan, the Twirler tops are made of metal.

The clay tops were not Twirlers but Whip Tops. These were not tops one spun with their fingers but rather they were "whipped" into spins using some sort of material (apparently in Europe, they used to use eel skin):
The whip top has mostly kept to the basic cone shape and was made of wood, fired clay and, in some cases, stone. During the 18th century, heavy whip tops of iron were made with the intent of whipping on the ice of ponds and lakes.
Hmmm. Definitely not a dreidel.

This has an interesting history of the dreidel game which is actually based on some old European game and has nothing to do with Chanuka at all. Isn't it always so pleasant to find these things out?

I'm not sure who decided to sing about dreidels made out of clay, but it sounds supiciously to me like a cheap attempt to have something rhyme with "play."

My conclusion: eh, who cares! :D

After that whole boring post, here's something a lot more fun:

...Did I really just write an entire post historically proving the dreidel song wrong? ...Oy.


Ezzie said...

This has an interesting history of the dreidel game which is actually based on some old European game and has nothing to do with Chanuka at all.

Funny, I was just telling someone that last night.

Erachet said...

Great minds...

Lon said...

I once made a draidel out of clay. It didn't spin. However, if you buy bakeable clay, it would. We don't have pottery draidels today because plastic is today's pottery.

Bas~Melech said...

Don't be ridiculous. Everyone knows dreidels are made of plastic. Of course, this whole discussion is entirely academic because no one needs to make dreidels anymore, anyway -- they multiply by mitosis. Seriously -- I needed some for my class party, and I couldn't find them... then I found one... and by the end of the night I had around 20.

There's a wooden mutation, but it is nearing extinction because of its reproductive failure.