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Hanukkah
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The best Hanukkah songs for your holiday playlist

Christmas songs get all the shine, but here are 21 Hanukkah songs to illuminate your celebration of the Jewish holiday

Written by
Andrew Frisicano
Contributor
Andy Kryza
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Hanukkah might stretch for eight nights, but when it comes to popular holiday songs, Christmas has it vastly outnumbered. Even the most hardcore Hebrews would be hard pressed to name a modern Hanukkah song not written by Adam Sandler. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. 

If you search around enough, you’ll find a trove of tunes worthy of a Festival of Lights playlist. Oddly enough, a good many of them are performed by gentiles. You’ve got the late, great Sharon Jones finding the funk in ‘The Dreidel Song’ and Too $hort rapping about latkes and pinching tuchuses. But there are also some gems from members of the tribe that aren’t widely known, including Bela Fleck, Matisyahu and, of course, the Jewish Elvis himself, Neil Diamond. We’ve collected them all here on this list of the greatest modern Hanukkah songs. Mazel tov!

Listen to these songs on Amazon Music

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Best Hanukkah songs

1. ‘8 Days (Of Hanukkah)’ by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Jones and her Brooklyn soul crew pull off the seemingly impossible feat of making a modern Hanukkah song you’d actually want to listen to all year. As per usual, the band’s Motown-infused gospel sound is warm and lived in, while Jones enumerates a holiday-appropriate activity for each night. Sharon, we applaud your soulful, non-annoying interpolation of the ‘Dreidel’ song, your pronunciation of Pesach... the whole schmear.

2. ‘Maoz Tzur’ by PS22 Chorus

The students of Staten Island’s PS22 deliver an adorable, youthful version of the Hanukkah classic.

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3. ‘Chanukah (Shake It Off)’ by Six13

Here’s proof that even Taylor Swift’s pop smash can be reworked (via the miracle of a capella, no less) to tell the story of the Maccabees.

4. ‘The Chanukah Song’ by Adam Sandler

Well, duh. Sandler busted this tune out on Weekend Update in 1994, shouting out the celebrities you may not have known to light the menorah every year, with the idea being precisely that there really aren’t any Hanukkah songs for young Jewish kids to take pride in. It started as a joke but has become a seasonal classic. For a whole generation, it’s really the Hanukkah song – a tip of the yarmulke to the indie rock version Haim put on their Instagram last year. 

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5. ‘Hanukkah (Favorite Time of Year)’ by Too $hort

It’s not clear why the Bay Area rap legend decided to record a grinding slow jam celebrating the Festival of Lights, but hey, let’s not question miracles when they happen. ‘I’m fryin’ latkes/I’m makin’ a mess,” he declares, “with some jewish girls/pinching tuchus.” Oh, and what’s his favourite word? Maccabiatch! 

6. ‘Oh Hanukkah’ by The Maccabeats

The Yeshiva University–based a cappella group’s tune evokes a number of upbeat musical touchstones, from boy bands to You Might Be Giants’s ‘Constantinople.’

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7. ‘Hanukkah Dance’ by Woody Guthrie

The Okie who later made his way to Brooklyn has a sizable cache of Jewish song lyrics, written – and this is not a joke – with his mother-in-law. This catchy folk ditty should get the mishpocheh moving at your Festival of Lights barn party.

8. ‘Miracle’ by Matisyahu

Disappointed in the disparity between the Christmas and Hanukkah pop canons, Hasidic hip-hopper Matisyahu was inspired to write this pop-reggae jam in 2010 to offer children something to celebrate (check out ‘Happy Hanukkah’ as well).

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9. ‘Hanukkah Blessings’ by Barenaked Ladies

Unfortunately, the album this song appears on, Barenaked for the Holidays, lacks a critical Barenaked element: The holiday album is the Canadian rock group's only LP without a naked track (a song recorded with all members playing nude). Despite that fact, the joyful spirit on this original Hanukkah track will, um, blow your socks off.

10. ‘Feast of Lights’ by They Might Be Giants

A festive five-song EP, Holidayland, from They Might Be Giants strangely makes sense – the offbeat alt-rocking guitar-and-accordion duo have that ultimate crossover charm, which makes them perfect candidates for surprise holiday tunage.

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11. ‘The Chanukah Song’ by Neil Diamond

The occasionally shmaltzy Jewish Elvis takes on Adam Sandler’s SNL skit turned holiday classic, and while the comic timing isn’t quite there, he does cheekily substitute Jesus Christ for Tom Cruise’s agent.

12. ‘(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica’ by Tom Lehrer

In what seems like the longest one-minute-and-forty-five seconds of all time, satirist Tom Lehrer rattles off the warm-weather locales he visits for each Jewish holiday. California seems like a fine place to avoid NYC’s frigid December, but you’d have to be some kind of schmuck to shlep all the way to ‘Mississippuh’ for Yom Kippur just cause it sort of rhymes.

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13. ‘Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah’ by Barenaked Ladies

You might not want to say the band’s name in front of your auntie, but this Hanukkah ode is actually another sweet, peppy horah-ready jam.

14. ‘The Hanukkah Waltz’ by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones,

The banjo-master settles into a deep, hypnotic groove for this instrumental meditation.

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15. ‘Sevivon Sov Sov Sov’ by the PS22 Chorus

This is the other dreidel song, the lyrics of which roughly translate to ‘dreidel spin spin spin / Hanukkah is a good holiday.’

16. ‘Candlelight’ by The Maccabeats

The a-capella group no doubt burned the midnight oil longer than one night to figure out the arrangement for this complex reworking of Taio Cruz's ‘Dynamite.’

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17. ‘Hanukkah on Japonica’ by the Panorama Jazz Band

Here’s a New Orleans street march with giddy klezmer pulse – and yes, there really is a Japonica Street in ‘Nawlins.

18. ‘How Do You Spell Channukkahh?’ by The LeeVees

You might not be familiar with the LeeVees; if so, don't feel down on yourself. It's the project of Adam Gardner of alt-rockers Guster and Dave Schneider of the Zambonis, a band that exclusively writes songs about hockey. The twosome strike gold in this comical tune that is exactly what you might surmise from the name.

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19. ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Hanukkah’ by The Jimmies

Yes, this is a Festival of Lights-centric update of one of the most obnoxious Christmas perrennials of all time, from an album called Mama Said Nog You Out, no less. Obviously, they also do a version for Christmas and Kwanzaa, just to ensure that the hippo arrives one way or another. 

20. ‘8 Nights of Hanukkah’ by Pella

Pella proposes one solution to the dearth of Hanukkah-ready modern pop hits: Mash up ‘Some Nights’ by the pop-rock band Fun and a few other tunes and add slightly different holiday-focused lyrics.

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21. ‘Rock of Ages’ by Def Leppard

Okay, okay – ostensibly, this song is in no way about Hanukkah. But Def Leppard lead vocalist Joe Elliot titled it after the traditional Hanukkah hymn (‘Ma’oz Tzur’ in Hebrew) after finding a children’s choir’s songbook in the recording studio.

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