There are two holidays on which we spin: on Chanukah it is customary to play with a dreidel, and on Purim we spin the gragger. The dreidel is spun from the top and the gragger is spun from the bottom. Ever wonder why the dreidel is spun from the top by a spindle which becomes wider and why the gragger is spun from the bottom by a stick leading to a larger head?
In the Purim chronicle, when the Jewish people learned of the total destruction Haman planned for them, they undertook a bottom-up effort and fasted and prayed to change their fate. In contrast, the Chanukah miracle took place when many Jews sided with the Greek point of view and did not join the Maccabee fight. It was God's top-down merciful intervention that saved the day. Setting a dreidel in motion by twirling it from above recalls Hashem's positive role in the Chanukah miracle.
A Purim gragger, also called "ra'ashan" (noisemaker) is used when Haman's name is mentioned during the reading of the Megilla. As a tradition, we spin the gragger to blot out the evil advisor-to-the-king's name. When Haman's name is mentioned in the Megilla, the congregation makes great effort to make a racket! Hisses, feet stamping, hooting, noisy table banging, clanking and grinding of graggers fill the synogogue and general chaoes ensues for a span of 60 seconds. Then there's silence, as the megillah reader continues reading the verses of the megillah. The scene repeats itself countless times, everytime the congregants reveling in the noise.
Some people can't stand the din the graggers and rattles make, but I just love the craziness that goes on in those few seconds after which there is pin-drop silence. The kids, especially have a great time!
For those who are not familiar with graggers, the gragger is sounded by taking hold of the bottom and yanking it around. There are many different styles of graggers made out of wood, metal and plastic in various designs, colors, shapes and sizes. Oh! Nuts carries a few types of graggers; one noisemaker is actually a candy-filled gragger! Check out this wooden gragger, this tin grogger and handpainted gragger with haman on the top.
These items are fun Purim gifts to distribute to kids - (if not adults as well)! or to include into Purim Baskets Mishloach Manot.