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How to Celebrate Chanukah

How to Celebrate Chanukah

Quick and Easy Menorah Lighting Instructions


The Chanukah lights are lit in the evenings preceding each of the eight days of Chanukah, beginning with Tuesday night, December 12, 2017, after nightfall. Please see the section “Special Shabbat Requirements” for special instructions regarding lighting the candles before Shabbat.

Who Lights The Menorah

Both men and women are obligated to light the Chanukah menorah, or to participate in the household menorah lighting. Children should be encouraged to light their own menorahs. Students and singles who live in dormitories or their own apartments should kindle menorahs in their own rooms.

Where To Place The Menorah

Many have the custom to place the menorah in a doorway opposite the mezuzah (such is the custom of Chabad-Lubavitch), so that the two mitzvot of mezuzah and Chanukah surround the person. Others place it on a windowsill facing a public thoroughfare. (If placed on the windowsill, it should be no higher than 20 cubits—about 29 feet—above street level.)

Make sure the menorah is on a sturdy, fireproof surface that is out of the reach of children and not near curtains or other flammable materials (more safety tips).

Setting Up The Menorah

The Chanukah lights should consist of lamps or candles—i.e., a flammable fuel that feeds a visible flame via a wick. The most ideal way to fulfill the mitzvah is with cotton wicks in olive oil, or beeswax candles; paraffin candles or other types of candles or lamps are also acceptable, but not gas lights or electric lights. (If circumstances do not allow the use of an open flame, a proper rabbinical authority should be consulted.)

The lamps or candles must contain enough fuel, at the time of the lighting, to burn until half an hour after nightfall. (“Nightfall” is the point at which it grows dark enough for three average-sized stars to be visible—about 20–30 minutes after sunset, depending on the location.)

The lamps or candles should be arranged in a straight row, and should be of equal height. The shamash—the “servant” candle that kindles the other lights—should be placed apart from the rest (higher, outside the row, etc.).

On the first night of Chanukah, one light is kindled on the right side of the menorah. On the following night add a second light to the left of the first, and kindle the new light first, proceeding from left to right, and so on each night.

When To Light Your Menorah

The Chanukah lights are kindled in the evening preceding each of the eight days of Chanukah. The custom of many communities (and such is the Chabad-Lubavitch custom) is to light the menorah shortly after sunset; other communities light it at nightfall. In either case, the menorah must contain enough fuel at the time of the lighting to burn until 30 minutes after nightfall. Note: The standard Chanukah candles last only approximately 30 minutes. If using those candles, then light after nightfall every night (aside from Friday—see below). For exact times, click here.

If one did not kindle the Chanukah lights early in the evening, they can be kindled later, as long as there are people in the streets (or others awake in the house).

Special Shabbat Requirements

IMPORTANT: It is forbidden to light a fire on Shabbat, which extends from sunset on Friday evening until nightfall on Saturday night. Therefore, on Friday evening, December 15, the Chanukah lights should be kindled early, before the Shabbat lights, which are lit 18 minutes before sundown. Additional oil or larger candles should be used for the Chanukah lights, to make sure they will last a full half hour after nightfall—the standard 30-minute Chanukah candles cannot be used on Friday.

From the time the Shabbat candles are lit (Friday evening) until Shabbat ends (after nightfall Saturday night) and until the havdalah prayer (separating Shabbat from the weekday) is recited, the Chanukah menorah should not be relit, moved or prepared.

Chanukah lights for Saturday night are kindled only after Shabbat ends after nightfall.

Blessings To Recite Before Lighting the Menorah

Community member Leslie Evans, left, lit the sand menorah in Palm Beach.
Community member Leslie Evans, left, lit the sand menorah in Palm Beach.

On the first night of Chanukah (Tuesday, December 12, 2017) , recite all three blessings. On all subsequent nights, recite blessings number 1 and 2.

1. Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

1. Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai Eh-lo-hei-noo Meh-lech Ha-olam A-sher Ki-deh-sha-noo Beh-mitz-vo-tav Veh-tzi-va-noo Leh-had-lik Ner Cha-noo-kah.

2. Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.

2. Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai Eh-lo-hei-nu Meh-lech Ha-olam Sheh-a-sa Nee-sim La-avo-tei-noo Ba-ya-mim Ha-hem Bee-z’man Ha-zeh.

3. Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

3. Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai Eh-lo-hei-noo Me-lech Ha-olam Sheh-heh-cheh-ya-noo Veh-kee-yeh-ma-noo Veh-hee-gee-a-noo Liz-man Ha-zeh.

After kindling the lights, the Haneirot Halalu prayer is recited.

Sitting by the Lights

One is not to benefit from the light of the candles, only from the shamash and other sources of light. For the first half hour when the candles are burning, it is customary to sit by the candles and tell stories relating to the holiday.

Work should not be done in the proximity of the burning candles. Women have a custom to refrain from household work during the half hour that the lights are burning, to honor the brave Jewish women who played a significant role in the Chanukah story.

More Chanukah Prayers

During the eight days of Chanukah, we add the Al HaNissim liturgy to the amidah (daily silent prayer) and the Grace After Meals.

The complete Hallel prayer (see your prayerbook) is also said in the morning service.

A portion of the Torah is read daily in the synagogue during morning prayers.

Give Extra Charity

It is customary to increase one’s daily giving to charity. On Fridays we give double the amount, to account for Shabbat.

Holiday Foods

Photo credit: Miriam Szokovski
Photo credit: Miriam Szokovski

Because of the great significance of oil in the story of the Chanukah miracle, it is traditional to serve foods cooked in oil. Among the most popular Chanukah dishes are potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts).

It is also customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah, in commemoration of the bravery of Yehudit. Click here to find out more.

Chanukah Gelt

It is traditional to give all children Chanukah gelt (money).

Of course, this beautiful custom adds to the children’s happiness and festive spirit. In addition, it gives adults an opportunity to give the children positive reinforcement for exemplary behavior, such as diligence in their studies and acts of charity.

Chanukah gelt is given to children after lighting the menorah. The children should be encouraged to give charity from a portion of their money.

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Join the Discussion
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Anonymous December 21, 2017

Now that Hanukkah is over should we take the menorah out of the window? We are a business and don't want to offend anyone.
Thank you for your guidance. Reply Staff December 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

You can take it out yes, thank you! Reply

George Colorado December 19, 2017

Confused, it said, "On the first night of Chanukah, one light is kindled on the right side of the menorah. On the following night add a second light to the left of the first, and kindle the new light first, proceeding from left to right, and so on each night." How do you start on the right moving to the left then proceed from left to right?! Reply

Jess California December 19, 2017
in response to George:

If you count the 8 candles from left to right, on the first night, light a candle in the 8th (farthest right) position. On the 2nd night, put a new candle in the 8th position, then put a candle in the 7th position. Light the 7 first and then the 8. On the 3rd night, place the 8, then the 7, then the 6 candle. Then light the 6, then the 7, then the 8. And so on.

In other words, you add candles to the menorah from right to left, adding a new candle each night. Once you have put the candles in the menorah, you light them starting with the leftmost one, which is always that night's newly-added one. Reply

Ines Florida December 20, 2017
in response to George:

Hello George,
You start put in the candles on the menorah from right to left, and you light the candles from left to right.
I hope this help you to understand better how to light the hanakah menorah. Reply

Anonymous December 12, 2017

Happy Hanukkah to all around the world! May the Grace of Ha-Shem be with you all! Reply

jim dallas December 12, 2017

chabad serves HaShem! thank G-d for chabad year after year...happy chanukah to the world! Reply

Shaina Miller San Diego via December 10, 2017

Love lighting the Candles I love all the prayers and will recite them this year. I have also sent to my sister Kris and pray that she will find the joy in the lighting of the candles and saying the prayers. Reply

Chani UK December 3, 2017

It's my favourite chag Reply Staff via December 25, 2016

To Anonymous There is a link to other prayers under the blessings. Reply

Anonymous Israel December 24, 2016

Songs after lighting the candles You don't include the songs we sing after lighting the candles. Reply

Dwight in DC Fairfax, VA, USA December 23, 2016

Prayers Thank you so much for printing the prayers with the translations and transliterations. That was very thoughtful of you. It has saved me a lot of time and trouble. Happy Chanukah to all! Reply

Anonymous Brazil December 23, 2016

Thank you for all the material sent, Shabat Shalom uMevorach and Happy Chanuka for you all! Reply

Ken Indiana December 7, 2016

Answer to Joshua From what I have read each night is equally important except for the necessary differences for the Shabbat. In fact, this is why the earliest-used candles are cycled around so that they each last about the same amount of time lest one night be given more importance than any other. I'm assuming this is because the original miracle lasted 8 nights. Reply

Joshua California November 26, 2016

Are any of the nights more significant than the others? (For example the first night because shehechiyanu or the last night, or are they all the same)? Reply

Harriet SImons Arizona December 6, 2015

Chanukah candles Mr. Posner's answer to Anon in South Africa misses one point. Anon's question seems to indicate that the candles are put out each night instead of letting them burn down on their own. Perhaps because only larger (standard ) candles are available they can be shortened at the bottom before Chanukah. I am wondering though, where a menorah with holders large enough or one that would use tea lights could be found. Perhaps a menorah using oil would be the best solution because cotton twine and olive oil is always available. Reply

Menachem Posner December 6, 2015

RE: New candles every night? As long as the candle holders are the same height, you need not worry that the individual candles will not be the same height. Tea lights are a good option. Also note that they must burn for a half-hour after nightfall. Reply

Anonymous MiddelburgMp South Africa December 5, 2015

New candles every night? In tbe absence of standard chanukah candles I need to use normal (scented?) Candles. Must they be the same height on the first night or do I need to replace the used candles every night? If only for half an hour can I try tee candles then to ensure they are the same height every night? Sorry for asking. No other Jews near. I still need to relocate to be able to convert. Reply

Lizandro Sweden December 12, 2014

It`s wonderful to read about menorahs! Reply

David Schutz Whitestone, New YOrk November 26, 2013

menorahs I am looking for menorahs made by the Judaica maker Chava Wolpert Richard,
best known as simply Chava Wolpert.

Can you tell me how/where I can find her menorahs?

Thank you Reply

Britany Hill Virginia October 19, 2013

Thank you so much for this article! As someone who is converting to Judaism, it definitely is of much help! May G-d bless you. Reply

Biju Thomas Kochi, Kerala, India December 12, 2012

Greeting Thank you for your wonderful site and all the tips and advice of Jewish practices.
Wish you all a great occasion of rememmbering Good L rds miracles.

ruth USA December 11, 2012

May G-D do miracles for His Isra'el this Hanukkah and for His people! We love you Isra'el - we love, love, love the Jewish people and hearing about your wonderful family stories. May the G-D of Isra'el bless you, keep you, and make His face to shine upon you. Lots of Love! Reply

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