Eight Epic Chanukah Songs, From Sandler to ‘South Park’
Who needs Christmas carols when there’s so much catchy Chanukah music? From Adam Sandler to Tom Lehrer to South Park, a playlist to lighten up the Festival of Lights.
‘The Chanukah Song’
By Adam Sandler
On Dec. 3, 1994, Adam Sandler delivered a gift to Jewish children around the world when he performed “The Chanukah Song” during “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live. To celebrate those “eight crazy nights,” Sandler sang about some famous Jewish people “just like you and me.” And while he made a few errors in that original tune—Rod Carew never converted to Judaism and Harrison Ford is actually half-Jewish—Sandler went on to record several new versions over the years. “The Chanukah Song” was even covered by Neil Diamond. And it’s so much fun-ica.
‘How Do You Spell Channukkahh?’
By the LeeVees
One of the great mysteries of the holiday is how to spell it in English. (Here’s a simple way to remember—there’s always one “N” and if you start with “CH,” there’s one “K.” And sometimes there’s no “H” at the end. If you begin with “H,” there are two “Ks” and an “H” at the end. Got it?) But in 2005 the LeeVees, a New York band with Ramones-like names, devoted a song to the subject on their album Hanukkah Rocks. Though the album title has a preferred spelling, “How Do You Spell Channuukkahh?” goofs on the endless variations. Other tracks on the album include “Apple Sauce vs. Sour Cream,” “Goyim Friends,” and the philosophical tune “Gelt Melts.” Alas.
‘(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica’
By Tom Lehrer
Decades before Adam Sandler thought to rhyme Chanukah with proper names and tortured puns, legendary satirist Tom Lehrer sang, “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica/Wearing sandals, lighting candles by the sea/I spent Shavuos in East Saint Louis/A charming spot, but clearly not the spot for me.” And Lehrer’s classic ditty spells out his ideal spots for the rest of the Jewish calendar: “Rosh Hashanah I spend in Arizona/And Yom Kippur way down in Mississipper.”
‘Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah’
By Erran Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen’s younger brother Erran composed the music for all of his films, but in 2008, he released an album of his own, Songs in the Key of Hanukkah, including such tracks as “Spin It Up” and “Look to the Light.” There’s even a ska-influenced riff on the holiday classic “Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah.” Prepare to watch the hora meet the Robot.
‘Miracle (Hanukkah Song)’
Before breaking with Hassidic Judaism by shaving his beard and taking off his yarmulke, alt-reggae star Matisyahu cut a Funny or Die single, “Miracle,” to celebrate Hanukkah. As Matisyahu sings of “eight nights and eight lights” in the trippy video, he performs a minor miracle of his own—ice skating and break dancing at the same time.
By the Maccabeats
As the all-male a cappella group at Yeshiva University, the Maccabeats are known for giving pop music a shpritz of Judaism—as in their Rosh Hashanah song “Book of Good Life.” But by far their biggest hit is “Candlelight,” the Hanukkah dance song that plays off Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” Because who doesn’t flip their latkes in the air sometimes, singin’ hey-yo?
Before she was a contestant on The Voice, Lady Gaga backup singer Chevonne released the sultry Hanukkah song “My Menorah” in which she brings the candles down low with eight suitors. “Every night I spin my dreidel,” Chevonne purrs to one, “but I’m never satisfied. I need Jew in my life.”
‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’
By South Park
When Kyle sets out to teach his little brother, Ike, about Chanukah on South Park, it begins innocently enough—he sings the lyrics to the classic holiday song “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” Then Cartman shows up and adds his own charming chorus, “Jews/play stupid games/Jews/that’s why they’re lame.” The absurdity builds from there until Courteney Cox is invoked—as one does on Chanukah.
‘Christmastime for the Jews’
By Robert Smigel
Just as a menorah requires one extra candle to light the other eight, here is a bonus song for Hanukkah. In 2005, Robert Smigel created a Claymation-style cartoon for the song “Christmastime for the Jews.” Performed by Darlene Love—who sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on Phil Spector’s classic Christmas album—the soul song reveals how Jews spend Dec. 25. “Now it’s nearly 10:30, yes it’s time for bed/Daily Show reruns dancing in their head/Maybe next year they’ll learn to hold their booze/Christmastime for the Jews.”