How to Light a Chanukah Menorah

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved | 12 References

Updated: January 10, 2020

Explore this Article Lighting the Shamash and Saying the Blessings Lighting the Other Candles Arranging the Candles Questions & Answers Related Articles

Chanukah (also spelled Hanukah or Hannukah) is the Jewish festival of lights and feast of dedication, a joyous holiday that celebrates the miracle of one day's quantity of oil burning for eight days in the menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem. The central focus of Chanukah is the chanukiah, the candelabra that many refer to as a menorah (though “chanukiah” is the correct term for the Chanukah candelabra). Lighting the chanukiah is a ritual that has very specific steps which differ slightly each of the eight nights of Chanukah!

Part 1
Lighting the Shamash and Saying the Blessings

  1. 1
    Light the shamash candle. Once the sun has set (unless it’s Friday), light the shamash candle using a match, lighter, or other flame source. It’s very important to light the shamash first. The shamash is what you will be using to light the other candles, so you should never light the other candles before it.[1]

    On Friday night, start the candle lighting before sunset. Use long-lasting candles so that the candles burn for at least thirty minutes after the sun sets.

  2. 2
    Say the first blessing over the candles. Whenever candles are lit in a Jewish ceremony, a blessing is always said over the candle lighting. This is the first blessing that you will say on each night of Chanukah.[2]
    1. Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

      Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukah.
    • You can sing the blessing with the traditional tune, or simply recite it. You can also say it in English if you can’t pronounce the Hebrew, though you should use the Hebrew if you can.
    • It’s traditional for others around to say “amen” after each blessing has been recited.
  3. 3
    Recite the second blessing. The second blessing thanks God for miracles that God performed for the Jewish ancestors, and is recited every night of Chanukah after the candle lighting blessing.[3]
    1. Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'olam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh.

      Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.
  4. 4
    Recite the Shehecheyanu on the first night of Chanukah. If it is the first night of Chanukah, recite the Shehecheyanu after the other two blessings. The Shehecheyanu is a special blessing that is traditionally said every time you do something for the first time, or do a specific ritual for the first time in this year. Because you will be lighting the Chanukah candles for the first time this year, say this blessing on the first night, but not on the following nights of Chanukah.
    1. Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'olam, shehekheyanu, v’kiyamanu vehegianu lazman hazeh.

      Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.
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Part 1 Quiz

Why should you light the shamash before lighting the other candles on the menorah?

Nope! You may have noticed that there are nine candles on a menorah, but only eight days of Chanukah. That's because the shamash does not represent any of the days. It's the "attendant" candle, which is why it's elevated above the others. Try another answer...

Not exactly! The shamash candle goes in the center of the menorah, in the raised candle holder. You are, however, correct that once the shamash is lit, you should then light the other candles on the menorah from right to left. Click on another answer to find the right one...

Yes! Unlike the other eight candles, which represent the eight days of Chanukah, the shamash's job is to light the other candles. Its name means "attendant," and its candle holder is raised to denote its important job. Read on for another quiz question.

Definitely not! Not only should you insert the shamash into the menorah before you light it, you should insert all the candles that need to be lit that day before you start lighting any of them. Chanukah candles are traditionally lit while in the menorah. Try another answer...

Part 2
Lighting the Other Candles

  1. 1
    Light the candles with the shamash. After you finish reciting the blessings, pick the shamash candle up with your dominant hand. Use the shamash to light the candle/s, going from left to right. In other words, light the newest candle first, then light the preceding candles.
    • Always use the shamash to light the candles. Never use an already lit candle to light the others.

    Tip: Although you placed the candles from right to left, you always light the candles from left to right in order to acknowledge the new candle representing the new night of Chanukah before the others.

  2. 2
    Place the shamash candle back in its slot. After you finish lighting the candles, place the shamash candle back in its slot. You have just finished lighting your chanukiah!
  3. 3
    Place the chanukiah in the window. Placing the chanukiah in the window is a way of proudly showing your Jewish heritage and traditions.
    • A key part of the Chanukah story is the defeat of the Hellenistic forces by the ancient Jewish Maccabees. The Greeks had taken over the ancient Jewish temple and were trying to smother the Jewish religion. This is why displaying the chanukiah and expressing your Judaism is an integral part of the holiday.[4]
    • Custom says to place the chanukiah in a window to the left of the door, if possible. The chanukiah belongs on the left side of a doorway, opposite the mezuzah on the right side, so that the family can be surrounded by mitzvot (commandments) as they celebrate Chanukah.[5]
  4. 4
    Let the candles burn themselves out. Instead of blowing out or extinguishing the candles, let them run their course. Make sure that they burn for at least a half an hour after sunset. If you have to leave the house, time it so that they burn for at least 30 minutes after you have lit them.[6]
    • If it is Shabbat, use long-lasting candles and make sure that they burn for at least a half an hour after the sun sets.
    • If you have to leave the house, let the candles burn for at least 30 minutes after sunset, then extinguish them for safety purposes.
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Part 2 Quiz

If you have to leave the house after sunset during Chanukah, what should you do with your lit candles?

Not quite! You're right that it's not safe to leave lit candles in your house while you're not there, but it's best to let the candles in your menorah burn themselves out rather than extinguishing them yourself. You should change when you do things to accommodate these rules. Try another answer...

Definitely not! Lit candles can be dangerous when left unattended, and it would be terrible to come back to a house fire caused by your lit menorah. Always make sure your menorah candles (and any other candles in your home) is out before you leave. Choose another answer!

Exactly! The candles in your menorah should burn for at least half an hour before the candles burn themselves out. You should plan your evening activities during Chanukah with this in mind, so you can let your menorah be lit for an appropriate amount of time. Read on for another quiz question.

Try again! Unless it's a Friday, you should always light your menorah after sunset, as that's when the next day of Chanukah begins. And even on Fridays, you should use candles that will burn for at least half an hour post-sunset. Choose another answer!

Nope! To properly celebrate Chanukah, you need to light your menorah every day. If you're new to the holiday, try setting an alarm for sunset to remind yourself it's time to light the candles to celebrate the following day. Choose another answer!

Part 3
Arranging the Candles

  1. 1
    Begin at sunset of the 24th day of the month of Kislev. Chanukah begins on the same day of the Jewish calendar each year, the 24th day of the month of Kislev. Because the Jewish and Roman calendars are different, Chanukah begins on a different day each year on the Roman calendar.[7]

    ? In 2020, Chanukah begins in the evening of Thursday, December 10, and ends in the evening of Friday, December 18.
    ? In 2019, Chanukah begins in the evening of Sunday, November 28th, and ends in the evening of Monday, December 6th.

  2. 2
    Gather your family or friends just after sunset. All Jewish holidays begin at sunset, so you should get your friends or family together with you to light the candles just after the sun sets.[8]
    • Including friends and family in the candle lighting ritual a very important aspect of Chanukah. A large part of Judaism is sharing the miracle of Chanukah and passing the tradition onto your children. For this reason, try to include others in the candle lighting!
    • The exception is Friday night, when the menorah should be lit before sunset. This is because Friday night is the start of Shabbat, or the day of rest, and lighting the menorah constitutes as work (which should not be done after Shabbat begins).[9]
  3. 3
    Place the shamash in the chanukiah. On your chanukiah, you should see 9 slots for candles, with eight slots on one level and one slot elevated above the rest. This is the spot for the shamash, or the candle used to light all the other candles. Place one candle in this elevated spot.
    • Every night of Chanukah, you place and light the shamash first before the other candles.
    • The word “shamash” means “attendant” in Hebrew, and its elevation away from the other candles is meant to separate it from the candles that represent each day of Chanukah. Its position also alludes to its important role of lighting the other candles.[10]
    • It doesn’t matter what color candles you use. Some choose traditional blue and white candles, while others prefer differently colored candles![11]
    • The candelabra Jewish people use for Chanukah is actually a "chanukiah," which has nine branches, not a menorah, which has seven. People incorrectly call the chanukiah a menorah, but they have become accepted as the same thing. If you wish to be technically accurate, call the candelabra a chanukiah.

    Note: An electric chanukiah is a great decoration, but it can’t be used to properly fulfill the ceremony of Chanukah. You need to use a candle or oil chanukiah to fulfill the mitzvah (the commandment or good deed) of lighting the chanukiah.

  4. 4
    Add the other candles. Every night of Chanukah, you add one more candle. On the first night of Chanukah, place a candle in the right-most slot. After the first night of Chanukah, add one candle for each night, starting from the right-most slot and going left.[12]
    • For instance, on the second night of Chanukah, place the shamash candle in its slot and the candle representing the first night of Chanukah in the right-most slot. Place the candle representing the second night of Chanukah in the slot next to the previous candle (the second to the right-most slot).
    • On the third night, place the candles as you did on the second night, adding a fourth candle in the slot third to the right.
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Part 3 Quiz

Why should you light the menorah before sunset on a Friday night?

That's right! All Jewish holidays, including Chanukah and the Sabbath, start at sunset. Lighting the menorah is considered work and is therefore not allowed on the Sabbath, so on the Friday or Fridays of Chanukah, you should light the menorah before sundown. Read on for another quiz question.

Not necessarily! Every night is a slightly different length, but not different enough to make a difference as to when you should light the menorah. Besides, even if the nights were different lengths, every year a different day (or occasionally two days) of Chanukah is a Friday. There’s a better option out there!

Nope! Jewish holidays always last from sunset to sunset, so for the most part, you should light the menorah at sunset, to commemorate the next day of Chanukah. However, there's something specific about Friday nights that make them different from other nights of the week for Jewish people. Choose another answer!

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    What's the soonest I can display the empty menorah? Do I need to wait until the first night of Hanukkah?
    Community Answer
    You can have it ready as early as you wish. Lighting it, though, starts on the first night.
  • Question
    When the first candle is lighted after prayer, do I put off the candle until the last day which all the candles are left to burn down?
    Community Answer
    No, you use different candles each night, always letting them burn down.
  • Question
    Can I light all the candles on the first night and subtract?
    Community Answer
    I've heard of people doing this, though it is not common. It makes a certain sense though, as one can consider it the same as the oil slowly being used up. If you're concerned about whether or not it's proper, better ask a rabbi.
  • Question
    Will I need up to 50 candles during the 8 days of Hanukkah?
    Community Answer
    You need 44 candles: 2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9, 1 candle for each night plus the shamash.
  • Question
    Why are candles placed in the menorah from right to left?
    Community Answer
    In Judaism, there is a principle that the right is superior to the left unless indicated otherwise in a certain situation.
  • Question
    What happens if candle number one is completely extinguished prior to lighting the eighth candle?
    Community Answer
    You should select candles that will burn for at least a half hour. Light all your candles, from left to right, after the last prayer is said. This should take less than a minute in total...plenty of time to light the last candle before the first burns down.
  • Question
    How many candles do I need?
    Community Answer
    You need two candles the first night, three the second night, four the third night and so on.
  • Question
    What order do the colored candles go in?
    Community Answer
    The colors are not really important. As a matter of fact, you could use all candles of the same color, or just 2 colors.
  • Question
    After the eighth night, how long do we keep burning the candles and what do we do at the end of the holiday?
    Community Answer
    After the eighth night, the holiday is over! Congratulation on celebrating eight nights for Judaism! Let the candles burn until they go out on their own.
  • Question
    On an electric menorah, how long do you leave the lights burning?
    Community Answer
    You cannot fulfill the ritual of candle lighting on an electric chanukiah, so therefore the usual practices don't apply.
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    • Place a plate or tray under the candles so that the wax does not drip onto the tablecloth.
    • For the chanukiah to be kosher, it must have all 8 of the "regular" candles in a line at the same height, and the shamash set apart. As long as this requirement is fulfilled, the chanukiah can be decorated any way you like. Some people even make their own as a craft project.
    • Eat latkes, exchange presents, and play a game of dreidel around your chanukiah!


    • Supervise children lighting candles, and make sure not to put the candles within the reach of a toddler or pet who might knock them over.
    • Keep the candles away from any articles that might catch on fire. Never leave burning candles unattended. Spread a sheet of aluminum foil underneath the chanukiah so that it doesn’t drip hot wax on the table.

    Things You'll Need

    • Menorah
    • Chanukah candles
    • Lighter or matchbook

    Article Info


    This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 12 references. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article meets our high standards.

    Categories: Featured Articles | Hanukkah Chanukah

    In other languages:

    Espa?ol: encender una januquiá de Janucá, Português: Acender uma Chanukía Menorá, Deutsch: Zünd eine Kerze für Chanukka an, Fran?ais: allumer une hanoukkia

    Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 357,325 times.
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