The Songs of Hanukkah The Songs of Hanukkah



In every culture around the world, holidays are significant. They usually feature foods, gifts, songs or other customs that are specific to that holiday, which are only enjoyed during that time of the year. And of all the holidays, Hanukkah is perhaps one of the most unique.

Whereas other religions have somewhat wavered from the religious ties to their holidays, the Jewish community still upholds the long-passed-down traditions of Hanukkah practically to the tee. From the lighting of the Menorah to holiday games like the spinning of the Dreidel, Hanukkah is a revered holiday of the highest significance.

Perhaps one of the favorite customs of most holidays, including Hanukkah, is the music. The music helps to define the holiday and it creates the atmosphere for which the holiday is recognized. Just like Christmas, these songs are exclusive to this time of year.

Some of the most famous Hanukkah songs come out of Israel, like “Hanukkiah Li Yesh” which means “I Have a Hanukkah Menorah.” The song, “Ner Rishon” is another timeless melody about the sacred tradition of lighting the Menorah. Others, like Adam Sandler’s comedic “The Hanukkah Song” are well recognized by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Other favorite Hannukah songs include the Israeli standards, “Kad Katan” and “Ner Li, Ner Li.” Translated, these songs stand mean, “A Small Jug,” and “I Have a Candle.”

Of course, no lighting of Menorah is complete without the singing of "Ma'oz Tzur," which means “Rock of Ages.” The song Ma’oz Tzur was written in the 13th Century and contains only six stanzas. However, it’s not uncommon for only the first, and sometimes the last stanzas to be sung as they are the only two that pertain to the joy of Hanukkah.

Another song that is often sung after the lighting of the Menorah is, “Haneirot Halalu,” which is an ancient chant that is mentioned in the Talmud. Its lyrics stand to remind us of the significance of the lighting of the candles, and of the Hanukkah miracles.

The Hanukkah song, “Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov” is a holiday song about the dreidel. The word “sevivon” is Hebrew for dreidel. The Hebrew version of the song is as follows, with the English translation immediately after.

Sivivon, sov, sov, sov
Hanukkah, hu chag tov
Hanukkah, 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.
Dreidel, spin, spin, spin.
Hanukkah is a great holiday.
Hanukkah is a great holiday.
Dreidel, spin, spin, spin.
It is a celebration for our nation.
A great miracle happened there.
A great miracle happened there.
It is a celebration for our nation.

Of course, “Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov” isn’t the only Hanukkah song about the little spinning top. Perhaps even more popular is the song, “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” The English translation of the song, which happens to be another of the Jewish holiday songs that crosses borders into the mainstream, is as follows:

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it's dry and ready, with dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with dreidel I shall play.
It has a lovely body, with leg so short and thin.
When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, 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.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. Come play now let's begin.
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it's dry and ready, with dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with dreidel I shall play.

One of the favorite songs among Jewish children is “Oh, Chanukah! Oh, Chanukah!” In the song, lines about dancing the Horah, eating latkes, lighting the candles and singing happy songs are often sung with delight and enthusiasm.

In a culture and religion so steeped in tradition, these songs are highly cherished and revered. Whether they’re songs sung for religious significance, or a child’s rhyme about a spinning toy, they each hold their own special place within the joy and the importance of Hanukkah.

For more information about Hanukkah’s significance and special treats, enjoy our accompanying articles about the holiday’s special foods, games and songs.

Dave Donovan is a freelance copywriter living in Atco, N.J. An electrician for 15 years, an injury forced him to pursue his true passion - writing.

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