Hanukka Songs, Carols and Kids’ Books
For the Grownups…
The Idelsohn Society Presents: ‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah, The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights
This two-CD set keeps the two holidays separate: 17 Hanukka melodies on one; 17 Christmas songs on the other. According to the accompanying 36-page booklet, which contains an essay by cultural historian Jenna Weissman Joselit, the competition between Hanukka and Christmas began soon after the latter was declared a national holiday in 1870. Although the are tens of thousands of Christmas songs as compared to the much fewer number of Hanukka ones, this CD set includes some gems: Hanukka melodies, from “Rock of Ages” to “Dreidel” to “Ocho Kandelikas,” are sung by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, Flory Jagoda, Mickey Katz, Debbie Friedman—and Don McLean.
But even many of the Christmas songs are either composed by Jews (“White Christmas,” “The Christmas Song) or sung by Jews: Lou Reed, The Ramones, Mel Torme, Theodore Bikel, Danny Kaye and Eddie Cantor, among others.
While you might question the premise of this collection, it is one that is, nevertheless, filled with treasures.
Finally, a Sesame Street book for Hanukka for ages 2-6: The Count’s Hanukkah Countdown by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer; illustrated by Tom Leigh (Kar-Ben; 24 pp. $16.95 cloth. $6.95 paper). Grover and the Count get to celebrate Hanukka with their Israeli Muppet friends Avigail and Brosh. As you might guess, numbers are an important part of the story, which includes a guest list, a shopping list, the number of days the oil in the Temple lasted, counting latkes and gelt as well retelling the story of Jewish survival. It is especially about the Count’s discovery of his favorite number.
Jeremy’s Dreidel (Kar-Ben, 32 pp. $17.95 cloth, $7.95 paper), story by Ellie Gelman and illustrations by Maria Mola, is about making your own special dreidel. Intended for ages 5-9, the book includes directions for making an environmentally friendly dreidel; a dreidel ball—and even one that has the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hey and shin in Braille.