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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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Fact: some of the best Christmas songs originate with Jewish songwriters: take ‘Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘You're A Mean One Mr.Grinch,’ ‘White Christmas’…  When you consider the great number of Christmas albums by artists ranging from Barry Manilow to Bob Dylan to Kenny G, it's not that strange that gentiles crafted some of the best Hanukkah songs: one of our favorites, for instance, is Sharon Jones’s funky Hanukkah bop ‘8 Days of Hannukah.’ Truly, the holidays are a cultural exchange. 

Yet despite all that goodwill, the number of classic Christmas songs is exponentially larger than Hanukkah’s greatest hits... especially in the pop world. Christmas has Mariah, Bing, Kanye and Beyoncé. Those celebrating the Festival of Lights have considerably fewer all-time greats to choose from. Still, to help you soundtrack eight nights of excitement, we’ve rounded up some surefire Hanukkah hits. You’ll find a-capella remixes and indie-rock darlings, Happy Gilmore and the Jewish Elvis. Here are the 21 best Hanukkah songs for your holiday playlist. 

Best Hanukkah songs

‘8 Days (Of Hanukkah)’ by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Image: Daptone Records

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.

‘Maoz Tzur’ by PS22 Chorus
Image: YouTube

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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‘Chanukah (Shake It Off)’ by Six13
Image: Six13

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.

‘The Chanukah Song’ by Adam Sandler
Image: YouTube

4. ‘The Chanukah Song’ by Adam Sandler

We all know this one is a no-brainer. Erstwhile SNL funnyman Adam Sandler served up one of the show’s most enduring bits when he first sang it on Weekend Update back in 1994 – and ever since, his ode to Jewish kids excluded from the Christmas spirit has been a holiday essential.

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‘Hanukkah Song’ by Too $hort
Image: Up All Nite Records

5. ‘Hanukkah Song’ by Too $hort

The Bay Area rapper, best known for hyphy banger ‘Blow the Whistle,’ dropped this Hanukkah slow jam in 2012. We’re not exactly sure why, but he seems psyched to rep latkes, matzo ball soup, schmaltz and (like a pervy bubbe) pinchin’ tuchus.

‘Oh Hanukkah’ by The Maccabeats
Image: Yeshiva University

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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‘Hanukkah Dance’ by Woody Guthrie
Image: JMG

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.

‘Miracle’ by Matisyahu
Image: Fallen Sparks

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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‘Hanukkah Blessings’ by Barenaked Ladies
Image: Desperation

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.

‘Feast of Lights’ by They Might Be Giants
Image: Restless

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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‘The Chanukah Song’ by Neil Diamond
Image: Columbia Records

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.

‘(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica’ by Tom Lehrer
Image: Tom Lehrer

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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‘Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah’ by Barenaked Ladies
Image: Desperation

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.

‘The Hanukkah Waltz’ by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones,
Image: Rounder

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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‘Sevivon Sov Sov Sov’ by the PS22 Chorus
Image: YouTube

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.’

‘Candlelight’ by The Maccabeats
Image: YouTube

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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‘Hanukkah on Japonica’ by the Panorama Jazz Band
Image: Panorama Jazz Band

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.

 ‘How Do You Spell Channukkahh?’ by The LeeVees
Image: Reprise

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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‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Hanukkah’ by The Jimmies
Image: The Jimmies

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. 

‘8 Nights of Hanukkah’ by Pella
Image: Pella

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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‘Rock of Ages’ by Def Leppard
Image: Vertigo

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.

Looking for more tunes?

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