Hanukkah Songs to Celebrate the Holiday

Family Lighting a Menorah
Roy Morsch/Corbis/Gettty Images

Hanukkah is a celebratory Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days and nights. The holiday this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the victory of Jews over Jthe Syrian-Greeks in 165 BCE.

In addition to eating Hanukkah foods and giving gifts, many Jews enjoy celebrating this holiday by singing songs together. Below are eight popular Hanukkah songs to sing with friends and loved ones this year. Many include audio links so that you can hear examples of the songs. 

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah

"Hanukkah, Oh Hannukka" (also known as "Oh Chanukh") is the English version of a traditional Yiddish song known as "Oy Chanukah." Authorship of the words has long-since been lost, but different classical composers have made use of the basic melody, including Hirsch Kopy and Joseph Achront. The lyrics are upbeat phrases aimed at children playing: 

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah
Let's have a party, we'll all dance the horah
Gather 'round the table, we'll give you a treat
Dreydles to play with and latkes to eat.
And while we are playing the candles are burning low
One for each night they shed a sweet
Light to remind us of days long ago
One for each night they shed a sweet
Light to remind us of days long ago.

Ma’Oz Tzur (Rock of Ages)

This traditional Hanukkah song is believed to have been composed during the Crusades of the 13th century by Mordechai. The hymn is a poetic retelling of Jewish deliverance from four ancient enemies, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and Antiochus: 

Ma-oz Tzur Y'shu-a-ti
Le-cha Na-eh L'sha-bei-ach
Ti-kon Beit T'fi-la-ti
V'sham To-da N'za-bei-ach
L'eit Ta-chin Mat-bei-ach
Mi-tzar Ha-mi-ga-bei-ach
Az Eg-mor B'shir Miz-mor
Cha-nu-kat Ha-miz-bei-ach
Az Eg-mor B'shir Miz-mor
Cha-nu-kat Ha-miz-bei-ach
Rock of ages, let our song
Praise Your saving power;
You, amid the raging foes,
Were our sheltering tower.
Furious they assailed us,
But Your arm availed us,
And Your word,
Broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.

I Have a Little Dreidel

Another traditional Hanukkah song based on an old Hebrew song, the lyrics for the English version was written by Samual S. Grossman, with music composed by Samual E. Goldfarb. The lyrics speak of a children's toy, the dridel—a four-sided spinning top:

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!
Chorus: Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!
It has a lovely body
With legs so short and thin
And when my dreidel's tired
It drops and then I win!
My dreidel's always playful
It loves to dance and spin
A happy game of dreidel
Come play now, let's begin!

Sivivon, Sov, Sov, Sov

This traditional Hanukkah song with Hebrew lyrics is sometimes known as "the other dreidel song." It is actually more popular in Israeli than "I Have a Little Dreidel." The lyrics of the song are a celebration of the Jewish people: 

Sivivon, sov, sov, sov
Chanuka, hu chag tov
Chanuka, hu chag tov
Sivivon, sov, sov, sov!
Chag simcha hu la-am
Nes gadol haya sham
Nes gadol haya sham
Chag simcha hu la-am.
(Translation): Dreidel, spin, spin, spin.
Chanuka is a great holiday.
It is a celebration for our nation.
A great miracle happened there.

The Latke Song

This is a modern children's song written by Debbie Friedman, a modern folk composer famous for translating traditional Jewish texts and setting them to music in a way to make them accessible to modern audiences. The lyrics of this song were intended for a youth audience, up to about age 13: 

I am so mixed up that I cannot tell you
I'm sitting in this blender turning brown
I've made friends with the onions and the flour
And the cook is scouting oil in town.
I sit here wondering what will 'come of me
I can't be eaten looking as I do
I need someone to take me out and cook me
Or I'll really end up in a royal stew.
Chorus: I am a latke, I'm a latke
And I'm waiting for Chanukah to come.
Every holiday has foods so special
I'd like to have that same attention too
I do not want to spend life in this blender
Wondering what I'm supposed to do.
Matza and charoset are for Pesach
Chopped liver and challah for Shabbat
Blintzes on Shavuot are delicious
And gefilte fish no holiday's without.
It's important that I have an understanding
Of what it is that I'm supposed to do
You see there are many who are homeless
With no homes, no clothes and very little food.
It's important that we all remember
That while we have most of the things we need
We must remember those who have so little
We must help them, we must be the ones to feed.

Ner Li

Literally translated as "I Have a Candle," this is a simple Hebrew Hanukkah song highly popular in Israel. The words are by L. Kipnis and the music, by D. Samborski. The lyrics are a simple expression of spiritual illumination as represented by Hannukah: 

Ner li, ner li
Ner li dakeek.
BaChanukah neri adlik.
BaChanukah neri yair
BaChanukah shirim ashir.(2x)
Translation: I have a candle, a candle so light
On Chanukah my candle burns bright.
On Chanukah its light burns long
On Chanukah I sing this song. (2x)

Ocho Kandelikas

This popular Judaic/Spanish (Ladino) Hanukkah song translates in English as "Eight Little Candles."  "Ocho Kandelikas" was written by the Jewish-American composer Flory Jagodain in 1983. The lyrics of the song describes a child joyfully lighting the menorah candles:

Hanukah Linda sta aki
Ocho kandelas para mi,
Hanukah Linda sta aki,
Ocho kandelas para mi.
Chorus: Una kandelika
Dos kandelikas
Tres kandelikas
Kuatro kandelikas
Sintyu kandelikas
seysh kandelikas
siete kandelikas
ocho kandelas para mi.
Muchas fiestas vo fazer, con alegrias i plazer.
Muchas fiestas vo fazer, con alegrias i plazer.
Los pastelikas vo kumer, con almendrikas i la miel.
Los pastelikas vo kumer, con almendrikas i la miel.
Translation: Beautiful Chanukah is here,
eight candles for me. (2x)
Chorus: One candle,
two candles,
three candles,
four candles,
five candles,
six candles,
seven candles
... eight candles for me.
Many parties will be held,
with joy and with pleasure.
We will eat pastelikos (a Sephardic delicacy) with
almonds and honey.

Candles Bright

In this very simple song for children, Linda Brown has set the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to refer to the candles on a menorah:

Twinkle, twinkle,
Candle bright,
Burning on this
Special night.
Add another,
Tall and straight,
Every night 'til
There are eight.
Twinkle, twinkle,
Candles eight,
Hanukkah we
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Pelaia, Ariela. "Hanukkah Songs to Celebrate the Holiday." Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, learnreligions.com/hanukkah-songs-2076423. Pelaia, Ariela. (2020, August 26). Hanukkah Songs to Celebrate the Holiday. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/hanukkah-songs-2076423 Pelaia, Ariela. "Hanukkah Songs to Celebrate the Holiday." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/hanukkah-songs-2076423 (accessed March 27, 2023).