Ring in December to the tune of Hanukkah! Just as the chill of winter rolls in, indulge in the warmth and glow of this Jewish holiday that’s better known as the FESTIVAL OF LIGHT! Hanukkah is eight days and eight nights of candle lighting parties, deep-fried treats of deliciousness, games, and music mixtapes, making this Jewish-holiday fun for the whole family!
Music has long been central to Jewish culture. The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation is a critically acclaimed organisation who ‘passionately believe Jewish history is best told by the music we have loved and lost’. Sieving through their website is as much fun as browsing a vintage record store and they have a stellar Hanukkah playlist here.
You can also check out this YouTube Hanukkah mix for a visual feast of all things Hanukkah.
Or better yet, here’s THE ULTIMATE HANUKKAH PLAYLIST, which you can download from iTunes.
1. MICHELLE CITRIN Pass the Candle (From Left to Right)
We commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah by lighting candles for eight consecutive nights. Michelle Citrin’s Pass the Candle is a melodious way of learning how to light your menorah in the correct direction!
2. ERRAN BARON COHEN Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah
Sasha Baron Cohen’s big bro, Erran, has written and produced one of the most amazing Hanukkah albums ever! This track heads for hip-hop territory collaborating with the stylings of Jewish convert and artist, Y-Love, with lyrics about dancing the horah, eating latkes, playing dreidel, lighting candles and singing happy songs!
3. CHANA LASLO Sevivon Sov Sov Sov
‘Sevivon’ is Hebrew for dreidel. During the years leading up to the Hanukkah miracle, teaching Torah was outlawed so Jewish children would go to the forests to study their religious texts. If any soldiers approached, the children would quickly hide their Torah and start playing with dreidels (spinning tops). To commemorate this we play dreidel games on Hanukkah.
4. OI VA VOI D’Ror Yikra
Hanukkah celebrates religious freedom. And this song by the kings of Klezmer-cool is all about proclaiming your freedom. You can’t go wrong with any of Oi Va Voi’s songs and this one is just too lush to miss.
5. PETER, PAUL & MARY Light One Candle
This trio penned kids’ favourite Puff The Magic Dragon. And here is their Light One Candle. I’m not sure this song was written specifically for Hanukkah, but the message and melody are hopeful, inspirational and perfectly in tune with Hanukkah.
6. THE LEEVEES How Do You Spell Chunnukkahh?
How do you spell Hanukkah/ chanukah/ chunnukkahh? Find out with The Leevees, who must be the most ace spelling-bee teachers around!
7. SUFJAN STEVENS Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages)
This tune is pure instrumental simplicity by musical genius Sujan Stevens. Hold out for the other version of this song that comes later and has the lyrics of a liturgical poem set to the melody.
8. IDAN RAICHEL PROJECT Chalomot Shel Acherim (Other People’s Dreams)
A beautiful song by an artist who believes that peace starts from learning about each other’s cultures, using music to break down barriers and borders.
9. TEDDI SCHWARTZ Beygl Lid (The Donut Song)
What is Hanukkah without a stash of sufgnaiyot (donuts)?? Teddi Schwartz whets our appetite for these yummy holiday treats with this brilliant Yiddish song about… DONUTS. Stock up on yours (and the best fresh hot challah in the world!) at JCC’s Koshermart. 48 hours’ notice is required and sufganiyot fillings include jam, parve chocolate and cinnamon apple… yum!
10. SHIRA KLINE Ocho Kandelikas
Aka Shirlala! This song feels like it’s been around forever, but it was actually only written in the 80’s. Ocho Kandelikas is Ladino for Eight Little Candles! The lyrics describe a child’s joy of lighting the candles on the menorah.Cute!
11. LAKATOS (FEAT. ERNEST BANGO) Hora Staccart
Dance the Hora, Dance the Hora! A Hora is a type of circle dance that originated in the Balkans. This song will get your feet tapping and your kids dancing.
12. ELLA JENKINS Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel
Ella Jenkins is an American folk singer dubbed ‘The First Lady of the children’s folk song’ and her dreidel song is a classic!
13. KIM NALLEY Hanukkah in Santa Monica
This song awesome in its kitschness! It’s not attempting to say anything meaningful, preferring to rhyme Jewish festivals with American place names. It’s a most fun addition to any Hanukkah playlist!
14. THE RAVENS Mahzel
Mahzel, or Mazal, means ‘Good luck’ in Hebrew, which you’ll need to win all the chocolate gelt at your dreidl game! I love this retro version by The Ravens. It feels so New York festive chic!
15. IRVING FIELDS TRIO Raisins and Almonds
Raisins and Almonds, or Rozhinkes mit Mandlen by Abraham Goldfaden is a Jewish lullaby so well known that it has assumed the status of a folk song. I really love this Irving Fields Trio version and their whole album, Bagels and Bongos, is fantastic! Also on YouTube, the Barry Sisters have a lush retro version, which sounds like a lullaby straight out of a 1950s Disney animation. Magic!
16. ERRAN BARON COHEN Ma’Oz Tzur
It’s a second track from Erran Baron Cohen’s brilliant album, Songs in the Key of Hanukkah, and the second version of Ma’Oz Tzur in our playlist. Ma’Oz Tzur is a Jewish liturgical poem sung after lighting the Hanukkah lights. Originating sometime around the 13th century, and originally sung only at home, it’s been used in the Synagogue since around the 19th Century.
17. CHASIA SEGAL Latke Cooking Demonstration
We ADORE her strong Yiddish accent. Like she says in the opening of this track, “Up ‘til now, you heard the music of Hanukkah, you heard the sound of Hanukkah, but now we’re going to have the taste of Hanukkah!” Ahhhhh… Lovely Little Latkes, learn from the best here! Tears of laughter are to be had!
And for everything you need to know about the perfect Hong Kong Hanukkah, see our guide here!
CHAG SAMEACH! HAPPY HANUKKAH TO YOU ALL!