Eight Hanukkah Songs for Eight Nights
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated as a commemoration of Jerusalem's Holy Temple during the Maccabean Revolt during the 2nd century BC.
This holiday is observed each year for eight days starting on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew Calendar (ranging from late November to late December in the Gregorian Calendar.)
Jewish families celebrate by lighting menorahs, candelabra that hold nine candles (one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah and one for the "helper" candle that is used to light the other candles.)
A number of songs are sung during the holiday by children and adults alike in celebration.
The Hanukkah Blessings
When lighting the Hanukkah candles, a number of blessings are chanted or sung. The following blessing is probably the most recognizable as it is the same blessing used on Shabbat (except the word Hanukkah is changed to Shabbat.)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָה יי אֶלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם אֲשֶר קִדְשָנוּ בֵּמִצְווֹתַיו וְצִיוַונוּ לֵהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶל חֲנוּכָּה׃
This blessing is pronounced "Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel hanukkah" and, as it's in Hebrew, is read from right to left.
After the lighting of the candles, the Jewish hymn, Ma'oz Tzur, is sung. The title of this song roughly translates to Stronghold of Rock, but there is actually an English version of the song "Rock of Ages."
This song dates back to the 13th century and speaks of times when Jews have been saved: the exodus, Babylonian captivity, Purim, and finally, the Hasmonean victory (the origin of Hanukkah.)
Light One Candle
"Light One Candle" is technically not about Hanukkah, but was first sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary during a Christmas/Hanukkah concert in 1982. This song has since become a symbol of peace in Israel (and around the world) and is sometimes played at synagogues around Hanukkah.
The first line, "Light one candle for the Maccabee children" is a reference to the Maccabees who re-dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem.
"Candlelight" by The Maccabeats
"Candlelight" by The Maccabeats
The Maccabeats, an all-male acapella group from Yeshiva University wrote and performed "Candlelight", a spin off the Taio Cruz song, "Dynamite." This song, released in 2010, achieved viral status with over 5.9 million hits on YouTube.
The song features the origins of Hanukkah and makes references to playing dreidel and frying latkes.
Oh Chanukah, or, in Yiddish, Oy Chanukah, is a popular children's song about lighting the menorah, dancing the Hora, and eating latkes (potato pancakes.) This song does have a Hebrew version, but the words and meaning are entirely different and is not as popular as the Yiddish and English versions.
I Have a Little Dreidel
I Have a Little Dreidel or, in Yiddish, "Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl" was one of my favorite Hanukkah songs as a kid. This children's song is also one of the most popular Hanukkah songs in the English-speaking world.
The song is named for the dreidel, a wooden top with four flat sides used for a children's game.
"Hanukkah Song" by Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song"
I wouldn't call this song kosher for Hanukkah but is an absolutely hilarious (and fun) song. In this song, comedian Adam Sandler explains that Jewish kids shouldn't feel lonely as they celebrate Hanukkah and not Christmas. He lists famous people who are also Jewish and thus, celebrate Hanukkah.
This song became wildly popular, so Sandler later created more parts to the song, but the original version is arguably the most well-loved of his Hanukkah songs and is perhaps the most popular Hanukkah song in the secular world.
While "Oh Chanukah" is one of the more popular songs outside of Israel, Sevivon is highly popular in Israel around the time of Hanukkah.
This song, written in Hebrew, doesn't have an official English version, but there are various translations of Sevivon.
The word "sevivon" is the Hebrew word for dreidel and the song is about spinning a dreidel and the miracle that happened in Israel (a reference to the miracle of the temple's oil staying lit for eight days when there was only enough oil for one day.)
© 2011 Melanie Palen