While there are plenty of ways to get Jewish music, we aren’t exactly blazing up the music charts with our catchy Hanukkah tunes. Of course, Hanukkah is not as big of a holiday for Jews as Christmas is to Christians, but it’s fairly well-known thanks to its proximity to the hugely popular and commercialization of Christmas; according to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of non-Christians in the US celebrate Christmas. But being the competitive person that I am, I can’t help but feel it’s time Jews stepped up to the plate to make some real big chart-stopping songs in the name of the menorah because, let’s face it: “The Dreidel Song” is quite possibly the lamest song, ever. Sorry, not sorry!
Christmas Music: Inescapable Yet Catchy
Christmas music became very popular in the 1800s; since then, an extensive catalog of songs meant to celebrate what Christians believe to be the birth of the son of G-d has developed. Pop singers are known for covering “Silent Night” and other tunes – think Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston (R.I.P) and more. Of course, Adam Sandler did hit the radio waves with his Hanukkah song, and I must admit it’s better than “The Dreidel Song.” But with all of the famous Jewish musicians – Lenny Kravitz, Billy Joel, Paul Simon and more – why can’t we knock one out of the park to be remembered in music history forever?
Maybe I’m a bad Jew but “Silent Night” is an incredibly moving and beautiful song. I personally love the Stevie Nicks version myself. While the Maccabees’ victory may not be as magical as a child “supposedly born of the holy spirit,” there’s still a great story in the story of Hanukkah: the underdog wins! How is this not the material of which many a great pop song and movie has been made? The underdog takes all. Year after year, I sang in choirs growing up and it was always a plethora of catchy and beautiful Christmas songs. There among the pop and gospel hurrah were two Hanukkah songs: “The Dreidel Song” and then “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah come light the menorah…” commonly known in my East Coast vector of the world as “The Hanukkah song” and truthfully a better song than “The Dreidel Song” by far. But with all the talent we have, Jews have never caught on that perhaps this family-friendly holiday needs a commercial hit.
The True Meaning of Hanukkah
The reality is that, despite it’s Christmas-adjacent reasons for popularity, Hanukkah is still rooted in tradition. Other than the “Mench on the Bench” and the various versions of Jewish Santa Clauses (Kanta was mine), Hanukkah is about a moment in time and victory for Jews without some puffy magical snowman or reindeer character. However, that’s sort of the appeal of Christmas and why 81 percent of non-Christians get into it: the spirit of the holiday. As Jews, we don’t need anyone to join in on our latke and oil fun, but perhaps it might make the occasion more fun – and some Jewish musician a lot richer – if we made musical history with a melodic and powerful Hanukkah song.