Chanukah Fever by Mama Doni is a fun and sassy collection of holiday songs for kids. Most of the teachers we know use “The Dreidel Song” every year if they talk about Chanukah in the classroom, but Mama Doni brings us everything from talking blues to disco. There are some plain old silly kid songs, some pretty ones, and — well, if you’ve ever wondered how Britney Spears might sound if she sang about menorahs, you can get a good idea with this album.
The musical quality is excellent, the energy level is amazing, and the fun quotient is high. For your classroom, or for a Chanukah gift, we like this album a lot.
Click on the title to hear samples and to download the album. It’s also available on CD. Check out the title track in this video:
Here’s a list of the songs with some ideas about how to use them in the classroom.
- Chanukah Fever You can see this title song in the video above. You know your community and your classroom, so watch it first and see what you think. To us, it seems secular enough for public school, and we really like “Nun to the Gimmel to the Hey to the Shin” to help kids remember the Hebrew letters on the dreidel.
- Latke Man Latkes are pancakes made from shredded potatoes. Read a book like Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story or Lots of Latkes: A Hanukkah Story or make some latkes. Use a traditional recipe and make them ahea to reheat.
- Honey, This Ain’t Money Traditional talking blues style tells the story of a girl who has some Chanukah gelt and thinks it’s money. Chanukah gelt is actually foil-wrapped hocolate coins. Use them for counting or to play the traditional dreidl games. FamilyFun has an easy craft project, making paper cones filled with gelt and tiny dreidels.
- The Legend Of Sour Cream Vs. Applesauce This is another latke song, but very different. It’s almost a game, with each part singing faster and faster. Divide into groups and try it, for fun.
- The Funky Gold Menorah A menorah is an eight-branched candelabrum. Each night of Chanukah, one candle more is lighted, till on the eighth night all the candles are burning. As the song says, it’s “next night from the right to the left light,” so you can bring a bit of right and left awareness into the lesson, and also point out that Hebrew is read from right to left instead of from left to right as English is.
- Bubbie’s Mi Yimale Mi Yamale is a well known traditional song for Chanukah, and some of your students may know it. With the lines, “At this time of year in days of yore/Maccabeus the temple did restore” the song tells the story of Chanukah. Mama Donni has fun with the song, singing with her Bubbie’s amazing one-man band. Identify the instruments and their orchestral families as you listen to this song. Then learn it and sing along.
- Eight is a sweet love song about the number eight. “If you were cold, I’d bring you eight warm coats/ If you were stranded, I’d bring you eight rescue boats” and on through the many many different loving things that could be done eight time. If you’re ready for the eights number family, you’re in luck.
- A Land Called Sufganiyot Sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts traditional for Chanukah. Both latkes and sufganiyot are cooked in oil, since Chanukah marks a miracle involving oil. Look at pictures of kids making these jelly doughnuts step by step. If you have the right kind of classroom setup, try them out, or make some at home to share.
- Dear Hanukah Harry Hannukah Harry is a Saturday Night Live character. You know your community; will this be offensive to families, or funny? One of the things some Jewish families dislike about the way Chanukah is taught is schools is the way it’s treated as a “Jewish Christmas.” Hanukkah Harry is a bit of a commentary on that, so for older students it could be an interesting discussion. Mama Doni’s take on it is very light and funny.
- Mac A. Bee This song is a fun wordplay, but probably not a very useful teaching moment for a culturally diverse classroom. If you want to learn about Judah Maccabee in your classroom, check out Judaism 101.
- I Say Chanukah (You Say Hanukah) The “ch” sound in “Chanukah” doesn’t exist in English, and many English speakers use the “h” sound instead. This song is an extended joke about this pronunciation issue. Again, it might not be the most teachable of the songs.
- La Vida Dreidel Playing the dreidel game is one of the best activities for a culturally diverse classroom, since it includes math, Hebrew letters, and history in one fun package. This salsa-flavored song is very lively and fun to sing, and a nice modern alternative to “I Have a Little Dreidel.”
- Ma-Oz Tzur Finale This is a traditional song. Mama Doni’s rendition is over the top funny and will probably be a hit in your classroom.