How to Celebrate Hanukkah

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved

Updated: May 23, 2020 | Reader-Approved

Hanukkah, a wintertime holiday in Judaism, is also known as the Jewish "festival of lights" as its focus is on lighting the eight Chanukah candles during the eight days of the festival. Although not one of the more serious holy days of the Jewish tradition, it is still traditionally celebrated with specific foods and ceremonies.[1]

Method 1 of 3:
Lighting the Menorah

  1. 1
    Begin lighting the menorah at sunset or nightfall. Avoid lighting your menorah during the day since it’s not per tradition.[2] Instead, wait until sunset on the first evening of Hanukkah, which is the 25th day of the month Kislev on the Jewish calendar. Wait until the sun starts setting or until after nightfall, which is typically 20–30 minutes after sunset, to light your menorah.[3]
    • Wait until your family members are home to light your menorah so you can all celebrate together.
    • You can light your menorah any time after sunset but no later than a half-hour before dawn.
  2. 2
    Place your menorah near a doorway or in front of a window. If you have the mezuzah, a scroll with portions of the Shema, on a doorpost, then set your menorah on a small table or chair near the opposite side of the doorway. Keep your menorah on a metal or ceramic tray to protect your table. Otherwise, you can set your menorah in a windowsill facing the street so others can see the lights at night.[4]
    • Be careful not to put your menorah within 3 feet (0.91?m) of curtains or other flammable material.

    Variation: If you live in a dorm or apartment and aren’t allowed to light candles, reach out to your resident advisor or landlord to see if they’ll make an exception for you. Otherwise, you may need to talk to a rabbi to find out an acceptable place to kindle your menorah.

  3. 3
    Set your first candle in the far right space. You can place the candle in your menorah at any time during the day, but wait until the evening to light it. Choose a candle that’s large enough to burn for at least 30 minutes after nightfall. On the first night of Hanukkah, take one of your candles and place it in the rightmost slot on your menorah. Don’t fill any of the other slots yet since you’ll add more candles later on.[5]
    • You can buy candles specifically made for menorahs and Hanukkah online or in big box stores. Standard menorah candles usually burn for 30 minutes.
    • You can also use oil lamps instead of candles.
    • While electric menorahs make great decorations around your home, it’s tradition to light a candle or oil lamp menorah during Hanukkah.
  4. 4
    Light the shamash candle. The shamash candle, also known as the “servant” candle, is separate from the other Hanukkah candles and used to kindle the others. Wait until you and everyone in your home are gathered around the menorah. Use a lighter or match to start the shamash candle and hold it in your dominant hand.[6]
    • Always light the other candles on your menorah with the shamash candle rather than using a match or lighter.
  5. 5
    Recite the menorah blessings. While the shamash candle burns, stand next to your menorah and say the blessings out loud. You only need to recite the blessings if you’re the one lighting the menorah. On the first night, there are 3 blessings you’ll say to thank God for the Hanukkah miracles. On each of the remaining nights of Hanukkah, you only need to recite the first 2 blessings.[7]
    • The first blessing is: Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. (Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.)
    • The second blessing is: Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim la’avoteinu bayamim hahem bazman hazeh. (Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.)
    • The third blessing is: Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.(Blessed are You, Lord our G?d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.)
  6. 6
    Use the shamash candle to light the other candle. Once you recite all of the blessings, hold the flame of your shamash candle against the wick of the candle in your menorah. Wait until the wick catches on fire before pulling the shamash candle away. Set the shamash candle in the slot on your menorah that’s raised or in a different row than the Hanukkah candle.[8]
    • Keep the shamash candle lit since you may use it to relight the Hanukkah candle if it goes out.
  7. 7
    Sing or recite the Hanerot Halalu hymn. The Hanerot Halalu hymn praises God for the Hanukkah miracles and it’s a tradition for you to say it each night. If you’re the one lighting the menorah, then you’ll recite the hymn in Hebrew. Say or sing the following:[9]
    • Hanerot halalu anachnu madlikin, Al hanissim ve'al haniflaot, Al hatshu-ot ve'al hamilchamot, She-asita la'avoteynu, Bayamim hahem, bazman hazeh, Al yedey kohanecha hak'doshim. Vechol shmonat yemey Chanukah, Hanerot halalu kodesh hem, Ve-ein lanu reshut lehishtamesh bahem, Ela lirotam bilvad, Kedai lehodot lihalel, Al nissecha veal nifleotecha, ve-al yeshuotecha.
    • When you translate the Hebrew into English, it reads, “We kindle these lights to commemorate the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, through Your holy priests. Throughout the eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look at them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations.”
  8. 8
    Allow the candle to burn for at least 30 minutes after nightfall. While the candle burns, just relax with the members of your household and avoid doing any work. Leave the candles alone while they burn so they don’t accidentally go out. If the candle extinguishes and it hasn’t been 30 minutes since nightfall, relight it with your shamash candle. If the candle goes out afterward, you do not have to relight it and can throw it away.[10]
    • You will put new candles in your menorah every day during Hanukkah.
  9. 9
    Add another candle in the next rightmost slot each day. On the second day of Hanukkah, place another candle in the first slot on the right. Then put a second candle in the slot immediately to the left of it. When you light your menorah, start with the candle that’s furthest to the left and work toward the right side. On the following days, add 1 additional candle to the menorah. On the 8th day of Hanukkah, you’ll fill every slot in the menorah.[11]
    • Remember to recite the first 2 blessings each night of Hanukkah.
    • Always use a new shamash candle when you light your menorah.
  10. 10
    Start lighting your menorah before sunset on the Friday before Shabbat. Shabbat is the day of rest and it’s forbidden to light a fire after sunset on Friday through nightfall on Saturday. On Shabbat, you also need to light specific Shabbat candles 18 minutes before sunset. Start lighting your menorah before the Shabbat candles on Friday while the sun is still out. Use larger candles since standard Hanukkah candles won’t stay lit 30 minutes after nightfall.[12]
    • If a candle on your menorah goes out after sunset, don’t relight it.
    • On Saturday, wait to light your menorah until nightfall so you don’t start a flame on Shabbat.

Method 2 of 3:
Observing Hanukkah Traditions

  1. 1
    Tell Hanukkah stories when you sit by the menorah. As you relax with your family around the menorah, you can share the story of how Hanukkah started to explain the holiday to children. You can also share personal stories or experiences you’ve had with family and friends during Hanukkah. While you don’t have to tell stories each night of Hanukkah, it can be a great time to bond with others.[13]
  2. 2
    Recite the Al Hanisim liturgy during daily prayers and grace after meals. Whenever you do your silent daily prayers or say grace after a meal, say, “Al hanissim, v’al hapurkan, v’al hag’vurot v’al hat’tshuot v’al hamilchamot sh’asita lavoteinu bayamim hahem baz’man hazeh.” This translates to, “We thank thee also for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds and saving acts, wrought by thee, as well as for the wars which thou didst wage for our fathers in days of old, at this season.”[14]
    • The Al Hanisim prayer is used to give thanks to God for his miracles.
  3. 3
    Spin a dreidel if you want to play a fun game. Gather as many players as you want and give everyone equal numbers of game pieces, such as chocolates, pennies, candies, or nuts. At the start of the round, have everyone put one of their items in the middle to form the pot. Take turns spinning the dreidel and wait until it falls over. Read the symbol on the face-up side and do the following:[15]
    • If you spin nun, then you don’t take anything from the pot.
    • If the dreidel lands on gimel, then you get everything in the pot.
    • If you get hey, then you take half of the pieces from the pot.
    • When you land on shin, then you need to add a piece to the pot.
    • If you run out of pieces, then you’re out of the game.
    • The person who ends the game with all of the pieces is the winner!
  4. 4
    Give small gifts to children each weeknight. After lighting the menorah, hand out gelt, or small gifts, to any children in your household. You can give things like candies, treats, or small amounts of money for a festive surprise. When you give the children gelt, encourage them to share or donate a small portion of it so they learn more about charity.[16]
    • Hand out a larger amount on the fourth or fifth night of Hanukkah since it’s tradition.
  5. 5
    Donate extra to charity if you’re able to. If you already give money, give out a little extra each day during Hanukkah to show your appreciation and to spread charity. On the Friday during Hanukkah, give double the amount you normally would since you won’t be able to donate anything on Saturday since it’s Shabbat, or the day of rest.[17]
    • It’s okay not to give more if you’re not financially able to.
  6. 6
    Attend a public menorah lighting if you want to spend time with others. Look online or at community event pages for Hanukkah celebrations to see if they have any public lighting events. Usually, they will light a giant menorah so it’s easy for everyone to see. After the lighting, recite blessings, sing hymns, and enjoy food with one another to spread the holiday cheer.[18]

    Tip: Even though you’ve attended a public menorah lighting, you still need to light the one you have at home.


Method 3 of 3:
Serving Hanukkah Food

  1. 1
    Incorporate more oil and dairy into your meals. In the story of Hanukkah, the Maccabees found a small jug of olive oil that miraculously lasted 8 nights after taking back a temple. To honor the miracle, cook and fry foods in oil throughout Hanukkah. Dairy also honors Judith, who saved her village from Syrians with an offering of wine and cheese, so enjoy more foods with milk, cream, and cheese in remembrance of the holiday.[19]
    • Any oil will work for cooking and frying.
  2. 2
    Fry latkes in oil for a traditional Jewish meal. Latkes are traditionally potato pancakes, but you can make them with carrots, zucchini, or anything else that fries easily. Finely grate 5 potatoes and 1 onion, and strain out any excess water. Combine the potato mixture with 3 eggs, ? cup (43 g) of flour, 1 tsp (6 g) of salt, and ? tsp (0.6 g) of pepper. Heat 1?2 cup (120?ml) of oil in a skillet and pour some of the mixture into the pan. Cook each side of your latke for 5 minutes or until it’s golden brown.[20]
    • This recipe makes 4–6 servings.
    • Top your latkes with sour cream or cheese to incorporate dairy into your meal as well.
  3. 3
    Enjoy applesauce with fresh latkes for a sweet and salty dish. You can either buy applesauce from the store or make your own. Try using different varieties of apples to make the applesauce sweeter or more tart. When you eat your latkes, dip them in the applesauce to combine the flavors.[21]
    • You can make applesauce earlier in the year and preserve it in jars until Hanukkah.
  4. 4
    Make jam-filled doughnuts covered in powdered sugar for a sweet treat. Jelly doughnuts, or sufganiyot, are traditional sweets fried in oil and stuffed with any jam of your choice. Start by making a dough with milk, sugar, flour, eggs, butter, and yeast, and kneading it until it’s smooth. Let the dough rise for 2 hours before rolling it out so it’s 1?2?in (1.3?cm) thick. Cut out 3–4?in (7.6–10.2?cm) rounds and let them rise until they double in size. Then fry each doughnut for 1–2 minutes per side. Use an icing bag or squeeze bottle to put the jelly inside of the doughnut once they’re cool.[22]
    • Coat the doughnuts with powdered sugar or cinnamon for additional sweet flavors.
  5. 5
    Bake challah if you want a delicious bread. Challah is a braided bread that doesn’t contain any butter or milk. Make your bread dough with yeast, flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and oil and knead until it’s thoroughly combined. Let the dough rise until it’s doubled in size before cutting it into 3–6 equal rope-shaped pieces. Braid the pieces together and let it rise for an hour. Brush the dough with egg whites before cooking it in your oven.[23]
    • You can add honey or dried fruit if you want your bread to have a sweeter flavor.[24]

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    Is Hanukkah celebrated in the summer if you live in the Southern Hemisphere?
    Community Answer
    Yes. Hanukkah is held on the 25th day of Kislev, and continues for 8 days. It doesn't depend on where you live.
  • Question
    What do people have to play with?
    Community Answer
    Do you mean dreidels? They're small spinning top-like toys where the winner often gets chocolate coins.
  • Question
    What should I do if candles burn out during Hanukkah?
    Community Answer
    Nothing. It's no big deal. But if you're worried about it, close all windows near the candles and leave the fan or air conditioning off. Don't let small children run near them. The idea is to let them burn to show how our ancestors found the oil in the temple as a miracle and blessing.
  • Question
    Do people who celebrate Hanukkah get disturbed by all the Christmas decorations?
    Community Answer
    No, they understand that people like to celebrate their religion. Most of the Jewish holidays are not elaborately decorated: it's just not part of what Jews do, but they don't mind that Christians celebrate differently.
  • Question
    Where do people go to celebrate Hanukkah?
    Community Answer
    They stay at home, or go to another's home. Some synagogues/temples host an event.
  • Question
    Can I use my phone during Hanukkah?
    Community Answer
    Yes. It's a fun holiday, remembering how God saved our people. It's not the Sabbath.
  • Question
    Is there a certain day of Hanukkah when a traditional meal is eaten?
    Community Answer
    Not really, but there are traditional snacks, such as fried latkes and donuts.
  • Question
    Can I celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah even if I don't believe in God, like if I just love the winter holidays?
    Community Answer
    Yes. You can do whatever you want. You can keep kosher if you aren't even Jewish. It's not forbidden.
  • Question
    Do Jewish people utilize private event staff, such as servers or bartenders?
    Community Answer
    I suppose some do, especially if they are hosting a large Hanukkah event.
  • Question
    When does Hanukkah start this year?
    Community Answer
    In 2016, it starts on December 24th and ends on January 1st.
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      • Hanukkah can be spelled a number of ways, including Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukah, and Hannukah. All are correct, as the word is a transliteration of a word in Hebrew.
      • Don't forget that Hanukkah is a time for fun and enjoyment, so spend time with your friends and family to celebrate.

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      • Do not blow the candles out unless it is absolutely necessary. The object is to let the candles burn until they are gone. Unless you are leaving the house and have no one to attend to the candles, let them go for as long as possible. If you're worried about creating a mess, use non-drip candles, or place foil underneath the Hanukkiah.
      • Always watch lighted candles carefully. Do not place the Hanukkiah on a ledge, near the edge or a surface, or near anything that might catch on fire. Be sure that small children, long hair, and loose clothing stay away from the flames.

      Things You’ll Need

      • Menorah
      • Candles

      About This Article

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      Updated: May 23, 2020
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        "From this article I learned so much more we can do to help us remember the story of Jesus. I want the children at Sunday School to learn about how Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of the feast of the Dedication and people asked him if he was the Christ. It's good to tell them what children would have been doing during the traditional celebration of Hanukkah, and let them play the dreidel game."..." more
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        "I am Christian with one of my best friends Jewish. You helped me understand her celebration. Excellent and educational for me in a meaningful way."..." more
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        "I am now dating a Jewish man and wish to celebrate the holiday in some special way. Thank you for this information."
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