Hanukah, Chanukah Quick Guide

            December 2012  Chanukah  
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Quick Guide to Lighting Chanuka Candles

By Jmag Staff


Quick Guide

This year, 2012, (or if you want to be exact 5773) we begin to light the Chanukah candles on Saturday evening, December 8, 2012.

What time should we light up?

When Chanukah is on Saturday night, we wait until after conclusion of the Shabbat, which ends with the Havdalah service to usher out the Shabbat, and then we light the Chanukah candles.

The normal time for lighting the Chanukah candles on the rest of the days of the week is just when it begins to get dark, except for Friday night. See the next section for lighting when Chanukah falls on Shabbat.

Candles lit in the day are not noticeable. Many families wait until all of the family members have assembled and then light the candles.

What Am I Supposed to do for the Shabbat?

On Friday, light it before it gets dark. The Chanukah candles should be lit immediately before the Shabbat candles are lit, and if not, close to the Shabbat candle lighting time. They should burn for at least a half hour after it is dark outside.

Where should the candles be lit?

The place for lighting is based on the principle of spreading the light. Meaning that we spread the light of the miracle of Chanukah to others by putting the menorah in one of three places:

Window Put your menorah in the window so that others in the street may see it. But if you live on a high floor of a building, it is better to place the menorah on the dining room table.
Table Put your menorah on the table so that you and your family may see it.
Door Put your menorah outside by your door opposite the mezzuah so that others may see it as they walk by.

How are the candles lit?

The first night, the first candle is lit. It is the candle on the extreme right of the menorah. On the second night, the second candle (the new one) is lit first and then the one which was lit the previous night is lit. The same is true for the successive nights, the new candle is given preference over the candles that have been lit, just like you should give preference to a new guest who is visiting you over a guest who has been by you many times before.

First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night

What is the Shamash?

The shamash is the candle which is used to light the other candles. It is not one of the Chanuka candles, yet it is not blown out but set in a place elevated above the Chanuka candles. The light of this candle may be used for lighting other candles, whereas the flame of the other candles may not be used for lighting other Chanuka candles. Simliar to the principle of he who serves is elevated.

Who should light the candles?

It was traditional for the head of the house to light the candles. In recent times, many young boys have started to light their own menorahs. (Keep an eye out for FIRE HAZARDS !) Although women and girls generally let the men do the lighting, if no man is available to light, then the women should do the lighting. Women generally light the Shabbat candles, men generally light the Chanuka candles.

What are the Blessings?

Before you light the candles, make the appropriate blessings. If you don't know them, click here to for the Chanukah Blessings.

What if the candle goes out?

The Chanuka candle is supposed to burn for at least a half hour. If it went out before the half hour has past, relight it. If the half hour has elapsed, then it's dependent on your desires: if you want to light it, then light it and if you don't wish to light it, then don't.

What is traditional to eat?

The most traditional foods are either latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiot (jelly filled donuts). In Israel, the sufganiot are very popular, but in the Diaspora the latkes remain a staple tradition. For recipes click here.

In addition, milk dishes are popular as part of the miracle came from eating cheese as related in another article.

For much, much more on Chanukah, check out our Channukah Archives


from the December 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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