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Celebrate the festival of lights during the holiday season with this Hanukkah playlist

Photo Illustration by Auden Yurman | Senior Photo Editor
American funk band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings has brought the soul to the festival of lights since rising to prominence in 2014 as part of a revival of 1960s-style R&B.

The festival of lights is often underappreciated musically, but songs from the likes of Adam Sandler and Idina Menzel elicit catchy rhythms and comforting lyrics that recount the themes of freedom and celebration associated with the eight nights of Hanukkah.

From updated renditions of classics like “Oh Hanukkah” and “I Have a Little Dreidel” to rock songs from Barenaked Ladies, check out this broad assortment of songs we have assembled for your Hanukkah celebration. Whether you are hosting a Hanukkah party or looking for some holiday tunes while you study for finals, this playlist has it all.

“The Chanukah Song” – Adam Sandler
Created in response to the lack of Hanukkah songs in mainstream media, famed actor and comedian Adam Sandler’s comedic song has emerged as a Hanukkah staple since first premiering on Saturday Night Live in 1994. On the Weekend Update set, Sandler sang the song while strumming the guitar in hand singing the classic lines “So much funukah/To celebrate Hanukkah.” Sandler, who comes from a Jewish family, lists the names of Jewish celebrities and characters like actress Goldie Hawn and Happy Days fictional stud Arthur Fonzarelli. Sandler has since released three updated versions of the song with more modern cultural references, like the most recent 2015 rendition which includes nods to rapper Drake, Frozen actor Josh Gad and “Ice Cream’s Ben & Jerry.”

“8 Days (Of Hanukkah)” – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
American funk band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings has brought the soul to the festival of lights since rising to prominence in 2014 as part of a revival of 1960s-style R&B. The band’s brass instruments like the trumpet and saxophone offer an uplifting funk element you won’t hear in most songs about the holiday, creating a stand-out choice in this playlist. While listing off activities for each day like frying latkes and cooking brisket, the groovy rhythm and Jones’ phenomenal vocals position the song as a superior Hanukkah anthem.

“Oh Hanukkah” – The Maccabeats
“Let’s have a party and all dance the horah!” You can’t put on a Hanukkah celebration without the Maccabeats, a Jewish a cappella group formed at Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish school, in 2007. Their upbeat cover of traditional “Oh Hanukkah,” is a masterful modern take on a classic Hanukkah song. The festive number celebrates the miracle of light, when the Jews were able to keep the candles in their temple lit for eight nights despite only possessing enough oil for one. The Maccabeats use the power of their voices and beatboxing in place of instruments to emulate the spirit of the festival of lights.

“If It Will Be Your Will” – Haim
If you’re looking for a more solemn holiday song, Haim – an alternative rock band composed of sisters Danielle, Este and Alana – delivers a stunning cover of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s 1984 classic “If It Be Your Will.” Danielle Haim’s ethereal vocals in combination with the smooth synth-guitar instrumentals evoke a prayer of hope that things will work out if they are meant to be – “If it be your will/To make us well.”

“Dreidel (feat. Jules Brooks)” – Erran Baron Cohen
Perfect to play during a friendly game of dreidel, Erran Baron Cohen’s upbeat remix of the classic song “I Have a Little Dreidel” brings a spirited energy necessary for the holiday season. Cohen, the brother of comedic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, is a film composer and created a Hanukkah album out of a desire to craft Hanukkah music “that was not for kids.” Unlike the more well-known original, the song begins with a trumpet solo and a steady drumbeat that builds the rhythm and incorporates elements of hip hop and modern pop music. Cohen performed the song on Late Night with Conan O’ Brien in 2008, where he and his band sported traditional Jewish clothing and sunglasses while singing the song live.

“A Week and a Day” – Boyz II Menorah
Pop singer Charlie Puth and actors Josh Peck, Zach Braff and Christopher Mintz-Plasse joined forces to debut this parody on The Late Late Show with James Corden in 2019, paying homage to ’90s-favorite Boyz II Men. In “A Week and a Day,” the group delivers the Y2K boy band bop Hanukkah deserves with lyrics like “Girl you spin me like a dreidel.” Corden and Puth masterfully layer their vocals, belting out in unison, “Got a week and a day of love for you/This Hanukkah, girl” in this catchy tune. In the music video, the group members dance around a large dreidel while sporting denim jackets and backward caps that feel akin to the classic boy bands NSYNC and Boyz II Men itself.

“Ocho Kandelikas” – Idina Menzel
Renowned Broadway performer Idina Menzel gorgeously sings “Ocho Kandelikas” (Eight Candles), a traditional song written in Ladino, an older form of the Spanish language. Bosnian-American Jewish musician Flory Jagoda originally wrote the song in 1982 with many other Ladino ballads to her name. Menzel’s cover is performed in both Ladino and English, describing the childhood joy of counting the candles on the menorah. Menzel’s incredible vocals take the song to new heights, and the upbeat arrangement of the melody makes the song feel like a tropical club hit.

“Hanukkah Blessings” – Barenaked Ladies
Against a steady guitar rhythm, Barenaked Ladies sings about the meaning of Hanukkah and how it can sometimes get lost “With the jingle bells and the toys/And the TV shows and noise.” The piece grew from a desire of Steven Page, the band’s former lead singer and main songwriter, to sing about “someone who celebrates Hanukkah in a society where everyone else celebrates Christmas.” Page, who comes from a Jewish background himself, wished to write a holiday song that incorporated Jewish themes. The band explores the resilience of the community, recounting the freedom the Maccabees fought for against the Greeks in the second century. “Hanukkah Blessings” feels like a warm holiday greeting to the tune of ’90s alternative rock.

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