The most well known of all the Chanukah traditions would be lighting the candles on the Chanukah Menorah, which is more correctly called a Chanukiah. Unlike the traditional menorah of the Temple that has seven lights, this lightstand has nine lights. There are eight that are all at the same level and a ninth that is distinguished somehow from the others – usually in a higher position. The separated light is called the Shamash or Servant candle. The other eight lights represent the days of the eight-day feast.
So the first thing we must do is find ourselves a Chanukiah. They can be purchased online in many places and some of the craft and department stores locally will stock them also. There is also no reason you can not make your own. My personal favorite is the Duplo Chanukiah.
All you have to keep in mind is:
- The eight daily candles should be at the same level and in a straight line.
- The ninth candle should be set apart from the others in some way.
- The lights, whether candles or oil lamps, should be capable of burning for around one and a half hours.
Each night we are to light the Shamash and then use it to light as many candles as the day of Chanukah we have reached. On the first day of the feast, we light the Shamash and one more candle; on the second, the Shamash and two more: and so on… until the eighth night, when we light the Shamash and all eight candles. So you have your Chanukiah now what? When and how to light it and what to say when you do?
When to light the candles?
The Jewish Day starts at sundown, so we light the candles on the evening of the day, after dark at the beginning of each day. This year, 2018, the holiday starts on the evening of Sunday, December 2nd. On that evening, sometime after dark, is when you light the Shamash and use it to light the first candle. Tradition is to place the Chanukiah where it can be seen by both those in the house and those passing by outside the house. The candles are not blown out. Instead, you let them burn down and go out by themselves. The tradition is that they should burn for at least thirty minutes during the hours of darkness.
On Friday evening, Erev Shabbat, there is an extra thing to consider. We are commanded not to kindle a flame on Shabbat. On that night, the candles are lit before sundown just prior to the lighting of the Shabbat candles out of respect for the Shabbat. The candles will then need to burn for 1 and 1/2 hours on that night. On Saturday evening, the Chanukiah candles are lit after it is dark and we have celebrated Havdalah.