I’ll be upfront about this: I’m not a religious person, but I do celebrate the holidays. By “holidays” (And yes, I’m talking to all you “War on Christmas” alarmists), I’m talking about Hanukkah and Christmas. What can I say, I like to live with contradiction. Now, like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah is a holiday that doesn’t have a lot of songs. Well, it actually has way more than Thanksgiving, but far fewer than Christmas – which is kind of odd if you think about paranoid conspiracies like “Jews control everything!” I mean if Jews did control everything, why wouldn’t they push Jewish holidays more? Maybe there’s only so much material one can wring out lighting candles, a small bit of oil, playing with a dreidel, the Maccabees, a Menorah, and all the other things that go along with Hanukkah. Maybe flying reindeer, a bearded fat man, snow, pumpkin pie, bells, Jesus, Mary, and Rudolf make for better songs and Rankin/Bass shows. Wait. Aren’t Rankin and Bass Jewish? Ah well, I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know, but I do know that I’ll take any opportunity to celebrate something. So with that, here’s wishing all Jews, Gentiles, Agnostics, and Atheists a Happy Hanukkah. Shalom, bitches!
“Oy, Chanukah, Theodore Bikel (Download)
I found this version on iTunes a few years ago, and it’s become a real favorite of mine (and my family). There’s just something about Bikel busting out this classic in two languages that’s just irresistible.
“Hanukkah Blessings,” Barenaked Ladies (Download)
BNL are a band that alternates between humorous songs and those that are heartfelt, and on this album they give their listener both. On “Hanukkah Blessings” (written by former BNL member, Stephen Page), it’s a song that gets beyond the wink and a nudge tone with which some bands treat Hanukkah. Instead, this song is one that may be kind of corny in a way, but there’s no denying that it’s heartfelt.
“Feast of Light,” They Might Be Giants (Download)
Well, even Jews have a tough time during the holidays, okay? This song by They Might Be Giants is one of the most depressing ones I’ve heard, but considering how many people feel depressed during the holidays (And I’m not just talking about Charlie Brown), “Feast of Lights” is probably one of the more honest holiday songs.
Some say that when Jimi Hendrix played the “Star Spangled Banner” on his guitar, that it was a transcendent moment in the history of popular music. But what about Dick Dale’s version of “Hava Nigila?” Maybe not transcendent, but what more says “Happy Hanukkah … California style” than this?
“How Do You Spell Channukkah?” The Leevees
With a “C” or an “H?” It’s tough to know, and for two Jewish kids who make up the LeeVees (Adam Gardner and Dave Schneider), they’re even confused. I don’t blame them, I’m Asian Indian and found out a few years ago I was pronouncing my middle name incorrectly — the same goes for the Ganges river. Words are so confusing sometimes.
“Give the Jew Girl Toys,” Sarah Silverman (Download)
Ever the transgressive comedian, Sarah Silverman loves taking a dump (and sometimes it’s a metaphorical dump) on many sacred and revered things — like Christmas. Sometimes she really makes me laugh (Her latest book
is one that is chocked full of extremely funny and sad stories), and sometimes she just tries too hard to be funny in a shocking way. However, I do believe she’s found the right balance in “Give the Jew Girl Toys.”