By Trent Barrick, MT-BC and Elisa Aven, M.M., MT-BC

Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight (Dec 16th), Hanukkah starts at sundown and lasts for 8 crazy nights (ending on Christmas Eve). The dates of Hanukkah change every year just like the other Jewish holidays because the Hebrew calendar is based on the moon rather than the sun. You can also spell Hanukkah a million different ways! The most common spellings are “Hanukkah” and “Chanukah.”

In Judaism, Hanukkah is a pretty minor holiday, gaining the recognition it has in the United States because of its proximity to Christmas.

Short summary of Hanukkah (for a more entertaining version, check out the Rugrats Hanukkah Special): A long time ago, the Holy Land (modern day Israel) was ruled by Greeks who were forcefully trying to Hellenize (spread Greek culture and influence) all  of the people living there. A small group of Jews defeated the Greeks, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and when they tried to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only a small amount of oil that was enough to last for only one day. The oil miraculously burned for eight days, thus, the miracle of Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the menorah every night, eating foods fried in oil (YUM!) like latkes and jelly filled donuts (sufganiot), playing games of dreidel, and giving Hanukkah gelt (chocolate money) to children.


Jewish music and Israeli music are incredibly difficult to define. There is liturgical (chant and singing) heard often at the tabernacle and non-liturgical that possess Jewish content. A well known Israel music representative is “klezmer” music, which finds its roots in European dance music and had much its development and influence from jazz genres in the United States. Klezmer can be thought as the Jewish take on the free-form instrumentation of Dixieland. It has a distinct Kosher flavor and is definitely not Cajun.

There are lots of other kinds of music when it comes to Hanukkah – it truly depends on your preference. Thanks to Youtube and Spotify, we’ve had some great finds!

Recently and in recent years, there have been some great parody videos of pop songs relating to the Jewish holiday.

Band: Six13

Song: “Chanuka”

Music video for “Shake It Off,” originally performed by Taylor Swift

Band: The Maccabeats

Song: “All About That Neis – Hanukkah”

Music video for “All About That Bass,” originally performed by Meghan Trainor

Band: The Maccabeats

Song: “Burn – Hanukkah”

Music video for “Burn,” originally performed by Ellie Goulding

Band: The Maccabeats

Song: “Candlelight – Hanukkah”

Music video for “Dynamite,” version by Mike Thompson performed by Ellie Goulding


The Maccabeats also have original songs about Hanukkah:

Song: “Shine”

We found lots of parodies and contemporary songwriting in regards to Hanukkah that we we later discuss on our Spotify playlist. Granted, more traditional Hanukkah songs are geared toward children, but here is a short list of songs Elisa and I have used in hospice:

Chanukah, Oh, Chanukah: This is a song primarily for little kids, but it can bring back a lot of childhood memories for some people. I would ask before playing it just in case they find it too childish.

The Dreidel Song: This song is similar to Chanukah, Oh, Chanukah, in that it is more geared toward children.

Hava Nagila: You can always get away with this song for any celebration because the words describe a joyous occasion, which Hanukkah is!

Sevivon: This is a great song about playing dreidel. Again, mostly for kids, but it’s not quite as childish sounding as the others. Here is an accurate recording:

Ocho Kandelikas: If you have any Sephardic or Spanish speaking Jews (not as common), you can play this awesome song! It’s one of our new favorites!

For a great list of popular Hanukkah songs, click here.

Lastly, we have great Spotify finds! We found a variety of songs, but we will focus only on a few CD’s.  Click here for our link to find all of our songs – Hanukkah Playlist.


Hanukkah Rocks
– The Leevees
This clever and hummable CD is an album of all original songs … and it rocks. We found these songs light-hearted, musing about the various ways one could spell “Chanukah” and the different toppings one could put on latkes in “Applesauce vs. Sour Cream.” The rocker in all of us will appreciate this accordion-less version of non-traditional Chanukah music!


Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights
-The New York Chanukah Ensemble


Hannukah Classics for Children (Lullaby)
– The Jewish Songbook
Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights and Hannukah Classics for Children are the same CD, the latter having 5 additional songs! These instrumental CDs of classic guitar and piano covers many traditional songs for the holiday. Though at times these songs feel less like lullabies and more like easy listening, children and adults will enjoy these arrangements!


Barenaked For the Holidays
– Barenaked Ladies
We love unusual holiday music. This fits that bill! BNL blends their jazz and rock sounds in Christmas traditional, Hanukkah traditional and non-traditional, and parody. If you are not BNL fans, you might not appreciate this as much … and even for the BNL fan, we admit the quirkiness of the first listen might dissipate after several listens. Pace yourselves!


Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah
– The Klematics
With very decent klezmer performances, we enjoy Woody’s poems set to new tunes and some klezmer covers of non-liturgical traditional songs. There are upbeat dance pieces, as well as emotionally powerful and diverse arrangements. Who can resist happy klezmer music??