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"Eight Candles Shine" is a 1963 song by Malvina Reynolds, published by Schroder Music Co. It is frequently used in [US] schools as a "Chanukah Song" at winter concerts. I am using it as well, for this purpose, at a public elementary school where a winter performance includes songs from many world traditions (including Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, seasonal secular music, etc.). Two students told me after rehearsal that some of the lyrics were about Passover, not Chanukah.

I researched it briefly and it seems to me (who is not well-versed in this) that the story of the Maccabees is considered relevant. Are there parts of these lyrics that don't belong in a Chanukah song?

Eight candles shine for the Maccabees, eight candles shine for the Maccabees
Down from the mountains with Liberty's sword they came like the flame of the Lord.

Dance the horah, light the menorah, this is the time of joy.
The road to freedom we take to day with the Maccabees leading the way.

Eight candles shine for the Maccabees, Eight candles shine for the Maccabees
Chanukah's children will never forget the glory that shine for us yet.

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  • maybe they are complaining about "the road to freedom we take today"? That could relate to Passover, but doesn't have to. Otherwise no, I don't see what the problem is at all.
    – Esther
    Dec 2, 2022 at 15:43
  • Another verse is relevant: "The tyrant was routed with all of his men". Dec 2, 2022 at 16:07
  • As Esther says, but I do not see any problems with these lyrics. "The road to freedom we take today, with the Maccabees leading the way"- yes, this can be applied to Pesach (minus the Maccabees part), but is is also relevant to the Chanukah story in some way.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 2, 2022 at 16:12
  • 4
    Maybe somebody mixed up this song with Maoz Tzur (which has 5 or 6 verses, and the second is about Passover)?
    – Heshy
    Dec 2, 2022 at 16:15
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    Are those the full lyrics or just the ones the students suggested were about Passover? I'm not familiar with this song
    – Double AA
    Dec 2, 2022 at 17:26

1 Answer 1

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As noted in the comments, there's nothing in the song that's explicitly about Passover, but there are a few lines with themes that might relate thematically to Passover. In the original version it says:

Eight candles shine for the Maccabees.
Eight candles shine for the Maccabees.
Down from the mountains with Liberty's sword,
They came like the flame of the Lord.

Chorus:
Dance the horah,
Light the menorah,
This is the time of joy.
The road to freedom we take today
With the Maccabees leading the way.

Eight candles shine for the Maccabees.
Eight candles shine for the Maccabees.
The tyrant was routed with all of his men,
And the temple made holy again.

(Chorus)

Eight candles shine for the Maccabees.
Eight candles shine for the Maccabees.
Hanukah's children will never forget
The glory that shines for us yet.

The lines "Down from the mountains with Liberty's sword" and "The road to freedom we take today" are related to the theme of Passover of being freed from servitude.

The line "The tyrant was routed with all of his men" is thematically similar to a verse that appears in Exodus 14:28 when God drowned the Egyptians in the Sea of Reeds:

"The waters turned back and covered the chariots and the riders—Pharaoh’s entire army that followed them into the sea; not one of them remained."

as well as a verse in the next chapter, in the Song of the Sea, which was sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian drowned in the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 15:4):

"Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
He has cast into the sea;
And the pick of his officers
Are drowned in the Sea of Reeds."

In both cases (Reynold's song and the biblical verses), we find the idea of the utter decimation of an evil king and his army.

If you really want to stretch it, you could tie the "Dance the Horah" line to the celebratory dances of the Israelite women (Exodus 15:20):

"Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, picked up a hand-drum, and all the women went out after her in dance with hand-drums."

But pretty much everything in the song is already connected in ancient sources to the actual story of Chanukah (except maybe the dances, but it's very likely that something of the sort did occur), so there doesn't appear any real reason to see part of the song as directly referring to Passover. Unless, of course, Reynolds stated somewhere that she based the song off of the Passover story or the festival in general.

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