Mesorah (Jewish stuff) · Music

Songs of Chanukah

I’m happy to be participating in #HanukkahHoopla, organized by the wonderful Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson.  Go and check out her blog, Lessons by Teachers and Twits  where she not only has a great explanation of what #HanukkahHoopla is all about, but she has her own contributing post today!


We love music in our home.  Little Man is great at picking up tunes (and even words, depending), and I love listening to his little high-pitched voice as he sings songs from school, or his favorite CD, or something he picked up from somewhere (maybe me?  maybe?).

Music is such a big part of our lives that it has been incorporated into The Bedtime Routine.  As the grand finale of bedtime, if you will, we sing five or six songs before saying Shema and giving goodnight kisses.

It’s understandable, then, that I was stoked to start on the Chanukah songs.  Chanukah is a great holiday for songs.  There are TONS of them!  Songs in English, Hebrew, Yiddish and even Ladino.  So I was excited.

However, once I started trying to sing them to Little Man, I realized that I don’t know most of the words.  Not only did I not grow up singing a lot of these songs, but one of the hazards of being an instrumentalist is that I know all the notes to the songs but not all the words.  So, when I’m singing them to my kids, they go something like this:

“Maoz Tzur Yeshuasi na na na na na na na na na”


“Svivon sov sov sov Chanukah hu chag tov Chanukah hu chag tov Svivon sov sov sov.  La la la la la la la la la….”

You get the picture.  I knew that I had to rectify the situation when I heard Little Man singing

“Chanukah Chanukah, I don’t know the words…”

Since one thing I love about blogging is that I get to learn stuff, I decided to do my #HanukkahHoopla post on the songs of Chanukah, namely, on some songs that I would love to be able to sing to my children.  This post is dedicated to anyone else out there who hums (or “la”s) along because they don’t know the lyrics.

I picked three songs, though there are many, many more.  Most of the Chanukah songs I’m familiar with I learned through various Jewish piano books, like The Ultimate Jewish Piano Book.

Ocho Kandelikas

This is a song in Ladino which I just love.  There’s something about the rhythm here which is just delicious; it’s a Chanukah tango.  How cool is that?  It’s a very modern song (well, modern relative to Jewish history), written in 1983 by Flory Jagoda.

Verse one:

Hanukah linda sta aki, ocho kandelas para mi,
Hanukah linda sta aki, ocho kandelas para mi, O…


Una kandelika, dos kandelikas, tres kandelikas,
kuatro kandelikas, sintyu kandelikas,
sej kandelikas, siete kandelikas, ocho kandelas para mi.

Verse two:

Muchas fiestas vo fazer, kon alegria i plazer,
Muchas fiestas vo fazer, kon alegria i plazer, O…

(then the chorus again)

Verse three:

Los pastelikos vo kumer, kon almendrikas i la myel,
Los pastelikos vo kumer, kon almendrikas i la myel. O…

(and finish off with the chorus.  Maybe sing it twice, ’cause it’s so catchy)

And what does it mean?  Here’s the English:

    Beautiful Hanukkah is here. Eight candles for me,
Beautiful Hanukkah is here. Eight candles for me, Oh…

    One little candle, two little candles, three little candles,
four little candles, five little candles,
six little candles, seven little candles, eight candles for me.

    There will be a lot of parties, with joy and happiness,
There will be a lot of parties, with joy and happiness, Oh…

    We’re going to eat little pastries, with small almonds and honey,
We’re going to eat little pastries, with small almonds and honey. Oh…

lyrics and translation from Religion Wiki


This version of S’vivon just rocks.  One thing I like about this song in general is the repetitiveness of the lyrics.  I feel like it gives me a fair chance to remember what I’m supposed to be singing.

Sevivon, sov, sov, sov
Hanukkah hu chag tov
Hanukkah hu chag tov
Sevivon, sov, sov, sov

Chag simcha hu la’am
Nes gadol haya sham
Nes gadol haya sham
Chag simcha hu la’am

And it means…

Dreidel, spin, spin, spin.
Hanukkah is a good holiday.
Hanukkah is a good holiday.
Dreidel, spin, spin, spin.

It’s a celebration for our nation.
A great miracle happened there.
A great miracle happened there.
It’s a celebration for our nation.

lyrics and translation from (yeah, that kind of surprised me, too)

Mi Yimalel

Honestly, I wanted to do Chanukah, Chanukah Chag Yafe Kol Kach for my third song, but I couldn’t find a video that I liked enough.  However, this is a fun song, too.  It’s got a dual personality, with the first half being all chipper and bouncy, but the second half surprising you with a shift to a minor key and a more traditional feel.  Enjoy!

The Cheerful Half

Mi yimalel gvurot Yisrael,
Otan mi yimne?
Hen be’chol dor yakum ha’gibor
Goel ha’am!

The Serious Half

Ba’yamim ha’hem ba’zman ha’ze
Maccabi moshia u’fode
U’v’yameinu kol am Yisrael
Yitached yakum ve’yigael!

And now for the English:


Who can tell of the heroic deeds of Israel?
Who can count them??
Yes in every generation a hero arises
To save the people.


In those days at this time
The Maccabee saved and redeemed
But in our days the whole people Israel
Will unite, arise, and save.

lyrics and translation from good ol’ Wikipedia

And there you have it.  Three songs for Chanukah that you may or may not have known, and may or may not want to sing to/with your family.  Happy Chanukah!

And now for a giveaway

I would like to thank Streit’s and Doni Zasloff Thomas a.k.a. Mama Doni, the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band for providing each of the 16 bloggers involved in #HanukkahHoopla with a little cyber-swag. Their cross-promotional alliance is designed to celebrate Jewish culture with the young generation, a mission of both Mama Doni and Streit’s.

How can you win? Leave me a comment. On January 5, 2012, I will select one winner at random. Be sure to subscribe to my blog or subscribe to comments on this page so you can find out if you are the winner!  If I don’t hear from you within 48 hours, I will select another winner.

Prefer to be contacted via Email or Twitter? Say so in your comment.

Not interested in winning? You can still leave a comment! I love to read your responses. Just write: “No prize necessary” in your comment.

Also, don’t miss out on my other giveaway – Chanale’s newest album.  Two CDs are up for grabs!  Entries close on Sunday! 


31 thoughts on “Songs of Chanukah

  1. I myself am not Jewish but I love music of all sorts and it was a joy listening to these songs, the first video I assume is a more traditional feel? The other two were great to listen to as well as I you can hear the western influence! Good Stuff!

    1. Thanks for visiting! I’m glad you enjoyed the songs. Music certainly can transcend cultural differences. I would say the first video is a more classical feel, but a less traditional song in the Eastern European Jewish sense. I also thought the other two were great to listen to. A nice blend of traditional Jewish tunes to some good ol’ rock!

  2. You are so cute! I’m guessing that not knowing the words doesn’t stop you in temple either, right? A little na na na and la la la. Even a good hmm hmm hmmm can get you pretty far! ;-) The music of the holidays is so wonderful. We have several CDs that we keep in the car and I’m sure that drivers next to us think we look ridiculous as we do our Jewish raps. I love Chanukah, Chanukah Chag Yafe Kol Kach! I guess YouTube doesn’t have everything, eh? ;-) Thank you so much for participating in all this #Hoopla.

    Off to tweet you!

    1. I guess I’ll just have to put my own version of Chanukah Chanukah Chag Yafe Kol Kach on Youtube and fill in that gap! Thanks so much for organizing the Hoopla! It’s been a pleasure getting to meet all of you! Yay!

    1. Mi Yimalel is one of the ones which intimidated me the most. I always felt like I was getting the rhythm wrong, somehow. Now I can play/sing with confidence. Well, almost.

  3. I am famous for not knowing the lyrics to ANYTHING until I see them written down. And I know that I’m not the only one. SO thanks for making this a great place to send folks who learn differently ;)

    I am partial to <emMaoz Tzur — the message is just so powerful.

    1. It’s comforting to know that I’m in good company! I also love Maoz Tzur, and Al HaNisim, too. My toddler loves to sing Al HaNisim, and he actually knows an impressive amount of the words.

  4. Thank you for the fabulous new (to me) songs to introduce to my own little one! I feel a bit bad saying it, but you’ve just doubled my Hanukkah song repository. :)

  5. We’ve been signing the driedel song for weeks now (the traditional one in Hebrew). Sophie and I love listening to our Chanukah CD. It’s amazing how much music is a part of our lives. Happy Chanukah!

    1. Which one is the traditional dreidel song in Hebrew? The only one I know is Svivon. Music is a fantastic addition to life. We were singing Shabbos and Chanukah songs all day. It was fabulous.

  6. My favorite Chanukah song is Don’t Let the Lights Go Out – works me up every time! Great choices!

  7. Because I didn’t grow up Jewish and don’t know how to read Hebrew, I don’t know all the words to the songs and some I don’t even know what the words mean. But I enjoy making up my own words with my kiddos sometimes. And honestly, the really touching songs, you don’t need to understand the words because your heart gets it and understands for you.

    1. The language barrier thing can be tricky for learning lyrics, that’s true. Of course, there are also plenty of English songs that I mumble the words to or don’t understand, lol. I’m sure your kids enjoy the collaborative musical effort!

      You’re 100% right about your heart getting it. Music is great that way.

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