When I was in elementary school, my chorus teacher, riding that multicultural music wave, introduced some Hanukkah songs into our holiday concert line-up that were extremely — how do I say it? — bad.
I can’t blame her. The only Hanukkah song most of the gentile (and even many of the Jewish) community knew back then and know now is “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” So my teacher took whatever complimentary Hanukkah sheet music she got in the mail and made do with those somber minor chords.
It didn’t have to be that way. There’s plenty of … better Hanukkah music out there. You just need to know where to look (this post).
Read on for some of the best Hanukkah music available — for your Spotify playlist or elementary school concert.
1. Adam Sandler, “The Hanukkah Song”
Sandler first performed this song in 1994 for Saturday Night Live. It centers on the feelings of Jewish kids forced to endure Christmas, and it has been a Hanukkah staple ever since.
2. Matsiyahu, “Miracle”
You have to give Matsiyahu credit for this combination of labels: He creates dancehall jam-band-style Jewish-American reggae music. I’m extremely here for one of his best creations, “The Hanukkah Song.” It premiered in 2010 and climbed to the top of the charts.
As Matsiyahu claimed on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” part of the reason his song was so popular was simple scarcity. Jewish-American artists, he said, have been far too busy creating Christmas music to develop any of their own.
3. Levees, “How do you spell Hanukkah?”
I don’t think I’ve spelled Hanukkah correctly in my 35 years on this earth. If you see the word spelled correctly in this piece, it’s only because of my editor.
4. Saturday Night Live, “Christmastime for the Jews”
This 2005 SNL sketch captures what’s truly great about the holiday: no lines at movie theaters.
5. The Maccabeats, “Candlelight”
I suffered through four years of terrible liberal arts college a capella music. But I’ve been able to look past my trauma for “Candelight,” a Hanukkah song made by a capella group The Maccabeats and inspired by Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” Thankfully, this one comes with a beat.
It’s an obscenely, borderline offensively dorky Hanukkah masterpiece.
6. Barenaked Ladies, “Hanukkah, O Hanukkah”
My apologies: Any post involving the Barenaked Ladies should come with a trigger warning. If you’re going to listen to the Ladies, let it be this song, which features atmospheric ancient civilization chants.
7. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, “8 Days of Hanukkah”
If you’re interested in *hip* phunky soulful Hanukkah music, this is your choice … your only choice.
8. Erran Baron Cohen, “Hanukkah O Hanukkah”
This Hanukkah classic sounds like a really good Casio keyboard demo. I’ve got a soft spot for the Hebrew rapping and the sick *flute* work.
Bonus: Erran Baron Cohen is Sacha Baron Cohen’s brother and wrote original music for his show.
9. Rugrats, “Hanukkah O Hannukah”
For those of us who love baby voices (not me) there’s this Rugrats hit, which I guess appeals to someone out there.
10. Six13, “A Hamilton Hanukkah”
If you’re going to do musical parodies, let them be choreographed Hanukkah parodies sung by Hamilton nerds.
11. Erran Baron Cohen, “Ocho Kandalikas”
Pretty much any song from Baron Cohen’s album, “Songs in the Key of Hanukkah,” is great. I’m a particular fan of this one, which falls into my favorite category: sultry Hanukkah music.
12. Tom Lehrer, “Hanukkah in Santa Monica”
This hit definitely falls into the category of “music my father finds funny and no one else.” A nostalgic favorite nonetheless.
13. Woody Guthrie, “Hanukkah Dance”
I don’t typically associate “religious Jewish celebration” with Woody Guthrie. Nothing about this song screams dance, either, unless your version of dancing is “gentle foot-tapping.”
14. “The Hanukkah Waltz,” Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
It’s moody, dark, and decidedly un-festive — just the way I like my holiday music.
15. “Rock of Ages,” Def Leppard
Leppard appears to have taken the title of this song from the traditional prayer sung after the Menorah is lit. There’s really no other Hannukah elements involved; I’m just happy to include it on this list.
16. Six13, “A Bohemian Hanukah”
Hanukkah-o let me go and enjoy this song!
Happy eight nights of Hanukkah karaoke, everyone.