When we are wished »Merry Christmas« for the 40th time shortly before Hanukkah, when we escape the hustle and bustle in the office or in the pedestrian zone and come to rest for a moment, then this could be the decisive moment, not just thinking about »Maoz Zur«, but also to get in the mood for the Festival of Lights with a few newer Hanukkah songs. Of course, listening to traditional Hanukkah songs and ideally singing them yourself is always a good idea. The same applies to unconventional versions and original songs from faraway North America.
We find it difficult to escape the Christmas spirit with all the Advent calendars, Advent wreaths, Christmas stollen and Christmas trees. It is all the nicer to hear what English-speaking Jewish families are hearing and singing. Start easy and then build up, that’s the plan here. Anyone who makes the right search queries on a video clip website that has been known for decades will quickly find what they are looking for. But it should be the most beautiful versions.
RABBI B. Rabbi B. is a singing rabbi with a guitar who delivers a cute version of the Hanukkah nursery rhyme “I Have a Little Dreidel” and produces his early Sesame Street-style renditions as video clips. These are performances that you can and should also watch with children. »I have a little Dreidel, I made it out of sand, but when I went to spin it, it crumbled in my hand.« There are many versions of this song, one of which is by the Jewish jazz musician Ben Sidran.
Something more exotic is possible, at least from a German perspective. Whoever enters “Canciones de Jánuca en español, mi casa es tu casa” meets three women, a singer, a cellist and a guitarist, who play and sing three Hanukkah songs in a beautiful Sephardic performance. “I Have a Little Dreidel” is included, but here the song is called “Yo tengo un lindo Dreidel”.
EVERGREEN Less traditional but funny is the »Hanukkah Song« recorded by Jewish Hollywood star Adam Sandler in the comedy series Saturday Night Live. The evergreen shows that a little humor can be helpful when it comes to addressing younger Jews who only practice half-heartedly and arousing interest in traditions. The song aired in 1994 when Sandler was 28. However, due to the refreshing way Sandler approached it, the song doesn’t feel old at all.
Adam Sandler was born in Brooklyn in 1966. Both his mother and father are descendants of Russian Jews. Sandler grew up in New Hampshire. Early on he was part of the Jewish youth organization BBYO. He later studied at the Tisch School of the Arts, which is part of New York University. He quickly became a star on Saturday Night Live. Musically, his »Hannukah Song« is admittedly rather simple. Only a few chords form the song.
NEIL DIAMOND It is all the more astonishing that a great Jewish pop star interpreted the song, namely none other than Neil Diamond. The now 81-year-old bard with a golden throat has released three full-fledged Christmas albums with all the extras in the course of his career. »White Christmas« was just as important here as »Jingle Bells«. Lo and behold, Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” ended up on the A Cherry Cherry Christmas CD. Neil Diamond modified the text slightly.
Diamond, the model son-in-law who broke records in the ’60s and ’70s with big hits like “Sweet Caroline,” “Kentucky Woman,” and “Beautiful Noise,” and built a huge fan base, told the Daily Telegraph in 2009 «, how the recording of the »Hanukkah Song« came about: »I have decided to add a song for my people, because this time of year I have always felt a bit left out.« But he added that Christmas carols are for members of all religions and cultures are “eerily euphonious,” which is true as long as Neil Diamond is guaranteed to sing them.
BARRY MANILOW Barry Manilow, another star singer with Jewish roots, also enjoys the role of »Christmas Jew«. If you browse his song titles, you’ll find that the word “Christmas” comes up a lot, while “Hanukkah” doesn’t appear once. From »In the Swing of Christmas« to »Christmas is Just Around the Corner« everything is included.
Now back to the Hanukkah songs. One of the most beautiful of these was recorded by Grady Tate some time ago. The soul and jazz drummer and singer, who died in 2017 at the age of 85, delivered a song for the festival of lights with “Happy Hanukkah, My Friend”, which is in fact so beautiful that it can even bring tears to the eyes of grown men .