“Oy Chanukah” – The Yiddish Version of “Oh, Hanukkah” with a YouTube Video

The other day I posted the popular English version of “Oh, Hanukkah” with a YouTube rendition of the song. Here’s the Yiddish version of “Oh, Hanukkah”. It was originally written by Mordkhe Rivesman (1868 – 1924), who was born in Lithuania. The song was also called “Latke Song” and “Khanike Oy Khanike”.

Below you’ll find a YouTube video of 7 year old Aviv singing “Oy Chanukah”, followed by the transliterated Yiddish lyrics, and then an English translation I did to go along with it.

Chanukah, Oy Chanukah
Yiddish Transliteration

Oy Chanukah, Oy Chanukah
a yontif a sheiner,
A lustiger; a freilicher
nito noch a zeyner.

Alle nacht in dredlech,
Shpiln mir,
zudig heise latkes, es un a shir.
tsindt kinder geshvinder*
Di dininke lichtlech ohn.**

Lumir ale singen
Und lumir ale shpringen
Und lumir ale tantzen in khur.

Lumir ale singen
Und lumir ale Shpringen
Und lumir ale tantzen in khur.

Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
(English Translation)

Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah,
A holiday, a lovely one,
A cheerful and happy one,
There’s none other like it.

Every night with dreidels
Do we play,
Fresh*** hot latkes, do we eat.
Quickly children light
The thin, little candles!

Let’s all sing,
And let’s all jump,
And let’s all dance together!

Let’s all sing,
And let’s all jump,
And let’s all dance together!

*Normally this line is in reverse: “geshvinder tsindt kinder”.
**Alternatively: “Di Chanukah lichtlech on” = “The Chanukah candles!”
***Literally: Scalding or burning hot.

I welcome comments and suggestions on the transliteration and translation and we would also love for someone to send in the Yiddish text in the original characters to the version above.

Happy Hanukkah!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 1:20 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Hanukkah, Hanukkah Songs, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Israel, Israeli Children's Songs, Languages, Mama Lisa, Oh Hanukkah, USA, Yiddish, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to ““Oy Chanukah” – The Yiddish Version of “Oh, Hanukkah” with a YouTube Video”

  1. Barbershop Quartet recording of “Stille Nacht!” - “Silent Night” in German - Mama Lisa's Blog Says:

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  3. Linda Austin Says:

    SO much cuter than Adam Sandler’s Hannukah Song (it’s on YouTube and too crazy for little kids).

  4. melissa Says:

    this is a fast song we have to learn this in school

  5. Noel Cutler Says:

    I “remember” (from 1933) the “second” verse a little differently:

    Oy kinder, geschvinder, di Chanukah lichtelach tsind on,
    Oon kinder lustiker, kinder frailacher, lommir alle tantsen in kon,
    Kinder lustiker, kinder frailacher …
    Lommir alle tantsen in kon!

  6. josephine Says:

    i don’t remember the song like this…

  7. Noel Cutler Says:

    It’s like gefilte fish — there must be regional variations! Of course, I was only three years old when I learned it — could it be my memory is faulty?
    — Noel

  8. shimke (stanley) levine Says:

    You ask for transliteration advice. There is a standard transliteration system, developed by the Yivo Institute for Higher Jewish Learning (apx), founded in Vilne/Vilnius the same year as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and moved to NY after the war. This transliteration is universally used in academic settings. However it is not immediately obvious to non-scholars and in popular usage everyone seems to spell the way it sounds to them. The Yivo transliteration uses kh for the first sound in Chanuka because ch can be read like the ch in church (m mother’s non-Jewish ffriend told her she had tried “chale” pronouncing it cheyl.) Another problem with spelling it like it sounds is that English is not phonetic. For Yivo, many letters are pronounced as an English speaker would pronounce them. Special cases:
    kh as in Khanike or the German interjection ach!
    ey as in beygl (bagel)
    ay as in aye!
    e is always pronounced (as eh) even at the end of a word: khale for the shabbos bread. meshuge (crazy).
    a as in the French pron of Paris, similar to English father: matse
    o between the o of open and the u of up: Er hot a yidishn kop.
    oy as in boy: oy vey’z mir!

    Khanike oy khanike
    a yontef a sheyner
    A likhtiker a freylekher
    nito nokh azeyner

    Ale nakht in dreydl shpiln mir
    Zudik heyse latkes esn mir

    Geshvinder tsind (pron. tsint) kinder
    Di Khanike likhtelekh on
    Zol yeder bazunder
    Bazingen dem (or di) vunder
    un tantsn freylekh in kan (in kan = old expression for in a cercle)

    The standard sounds of Yiddish vary in certain regional varieties. In the southern part of the Pale, and in theater, for example, the letter o is usu. pronounced u, and the u is pron. i. [In some subregions, the final e is pronounced i. (Sholem Alekhem was from that area)]. The third from the last line might be spoken in Rumania/Ukraine “zul yeyder bazinder basingen dem vinder in tantsn freylakh in kan”.

  9. Ora Says:

    The words written in English are completely wrong.
    The song is:
    Oh Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah
    Come Light the Menorah
    Lets Have a Party
    We’ll All Dance the Horah
    Gather ’round the Table We’ll Give You a Treat
    Sivivon to Play With and Latkes to Eat
    and While We Are Playing the Candles
    Are Burning Low
    One for Each Night
    We Shed a Sweet Light
    To Remind Us of Days Long Ago
    One for Each Night
    We Shed a Sweet Light
    To Remind Us of Days Long Ago

  10. shimke Says:

    Since this is a Yiddish song, I am not sure what you mean, Ora, by saying the words in English are “completely wrong.” The words you give are a VERY free translation of the original Yiddish. — However, the main thing is to enjoy the holiday. If you find a translation or adaptation which fits well with the music and is relevant to the joy of Khanike and is fun to sing, why not? Just enjoy… zing gezunterheyt!

  11. Jack Says:

    “Dance in the choir” doesn’t make too much sense unless it is a refence to “Chor de ballet” (French, but pronounced “Kor”–which perhaps could also be translated as “dance in unison” and thereby make sense.

  12. TMB Says:

    shimke: Thank you – *that*’s the version I learned as a kid! I’ve spent the past hour looking at various sets of lyrics online and saying “That bit here or there doesn’t sound right”, but I couldn’t actually remember what I learned. But that’s definitely the one.

  13. ayzik Says:

    there are more verses:

    Yehude hot fartribn dem soyne, dem roytseakh,
    Un hot in beys hamikdesh gezungen “lamnatseyakh”
    Di shtot yerushalayim hot vider oyfgelebt,
    Un tsu a nayem lebn hot yederer geshtrebt.

    Geshvinder, tsindt kinder
    Di dininke likhtelekh on.
    Zogt “al hanisim,” loybt got far di nisim,
    Un kumt gikher tantsn in kon.

    Khanike, oy khanike, a yomtev a sheyner,
    A lustiker, a freylekher, nito nokh azoyner,
    Ale nakht in dreydlekh shpiln mir,
    Zudik heyse latkes esn mir.

    Geshvinder, tsindt kinder
    Di khanike likhtelekh on.
    zol yeder bazunder bazingen dem vunder,
    Un tantsn freylekh in kon.

    words by M. Rivesman

  14. ayzik Says:

    Listen to this and other Yiddish Hanukah songs:

    streamed from Jewish sound archive collection


  15. David Frederick Says:

    My Mother-In-Law was singing me this song earlier today in Yiddish. She attended Shalom AleKhem grade school in Bronx, NY and her version lines up very closely Mr. Shimke Levines. Her pronunciation of the yiddish vowels are also the same.

  16. Lisa Says:

    That’s great! If she’d like to sing a Yiddish song for Mama Lisa’s World, we be happy to post it!

  17. Rachel Says:

    Thank you for this. I have always wondered about the exact wording in Yiddish. I’ve tried to figure it out by ear, but since I only know a handful of words in Yiddish, it was very hard.

  18. Albert Says:

    Thank you too. I’m uncomfortable with the singsong nature of some Chanukkah ditties and others, so I give more emphasis to those I like (Lichtelach is my favorite). This one eludes me for years on end, so I’m happy when it comes back, and now happy to have more lyrics. (Another favorite is Pripitchik.) Speaking of Lichtelach, I had learned another song by Morris Rosenberg (Mayn Rueh Platz), which I perform occasionally– years later I discovered Lichtelach was also by Morris Rosenberg!

  19. Ricki Says:

    Hi, thank you for helpfully translating the Yiddish literally. Here is the English kids’ version that keeps the spirit of the Yiddish but whose lyrics fit with the bouncy tune.

    Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah!
    Let’s have a party, and we’ll dance the horah.
    Spin the whirling dreidels all week long,
    Eat the sizzling latkes, sing a happy song.
    Now light them, tonight then,
    The flickering candles in a row.
    Retell the wondrous stories of G-d in all his glory,
    ~*and dance by the candles’ cheering glow.*

    ~Alternate last line, as the light from candles is not to be utilized: *“the wonders of a long time ago.”*

  20. Craig Says:

    Here it is in English, Hebrew and Yiddish (all correct characters and fonts) as sung by the incredible Theodore Bikel.

  21. Jane Says:

    Both videos are missing today 11 December 2021

  22. Toby Says:

    I learned the last lines as: “zol yederer besinder betracht in dem vinder, und tanzen hora voh(?)”
    Can someone translate “besinder” and “betracht”‘. (I’m guessing “marvel at the wonder…”)

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