Hanukkah is most well-known by its other name, "The Festival of Lights"; this is because at Hanukkah we light candles in the eight-branched candlestick called a Hanukkiah. This is normally a fancy-metal work candlestick, although you can find all sorts of beautiful and fun Hanukkiahs!

In the middle of the Hanukkiah is a ninth candle-holder; this is usually raised a little above the other eight, or set out to one side to make it special, because this candle is called the shamash, meaning servant. This servant candle is the only Hanukkah candle we light with a match - we then use the shamash to light the other candles. No particular reason is known for this, it is simply tradition, but we, as believers in Yeshua, can see a picture of Him in this: He, the shamash, lights us, the candles that are seen in the darkness of the world ...

On the first night of Hanukkah two candles are placed in the Hanukkiah, one as the shamash in the centre or on the side (wherever it is on the individual Hanukkiah) and one at the far right-hand end of the Hanukkiah for the first night of Hanukkah - each night one more candle is added on the right of the shamash. On the fifth night, when five candles are lit, the fifth candle is placed immediately to the left of the shamash (if it is in the centre) and so on until the whole Hanukkiah is full.

The shamash candle is always lit first, using a match or lighter. The shamash is then used to light the other candles, starting with the most left-hand candle and working to the right along the candles.



On the first night of Hanukkah, before the Hanukkah candles are lit, three blessings are said:

  1. Baruch atah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.
    Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
  2. Baruch atah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, sheh-asa nisim la'avoteynu, ba'yamim ha-haim ba'zman ha-zeh.
    Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who did miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.
  3. Baruch atah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, she-heh-cheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu la'zman ha-zeh.
    Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.

After lighting the Hanukkiah some people say this prayer:

"We light these lights for the miracle and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that You made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make them serve except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations."

Don't worry if you don't own a Hanukkiah - making one is very simple. Here are a couple of ideas of how to make your own:

1. You will need:

  • 9 round barrel-like glasses, all the same size - try to find glasses that are wide and without a stem; glasses that are narrow or have a stem may be dangerous or difficult to use.
  • 44 tea-lights - you might want a few extra as there are nearly always a couple that haven't got any wicks in them!
Each night you can line the glasses up, putting the ninth glass on a mat or an upturned dish, to raise it above the others - just make sure it is safe and can't fall off - and then place tea-lights in the correct number of glasses for the night of Hanukkah. Get an adult to help you light the tea-lights with a taper; using a match to light tea-lights inside a glass can be dangerous.

2. You will need:

  • Modelling clay - either the type that you bake in the oven to harden, or the kind that hardens when exposed to air; this second type needs to be used carefully so that the spare clay doesn't set before you need it to!
  • 44 candles or tea-lights - again, a few spares are always a good idea!
Use the clay to make your own Hanukkiah: this is best done with a flat base to place the candle-holders on; make sure the candle-holders are firmly attached to the base otherwise they might fall over when a candle is placed in them!
Some simpler ideas are:
  • Making the candle-holders animals, such as snakes, bears (sitting down) or birds - you can then use a taller animal such as a horse or a cow to hold the shamash;
  • Making each of the candle-holders a flower, with the hole for the candle the centre.
You can then paint your Hanukkiah (acrylic or poster pain is best - watercolours are too weak) after it has dried/been baked.
More complicated ideas include making a model of the Kotel (the Western Wall) in Jerusalem!
Don't Forget to start early enough to have your Hanukkiah ready to use on the first night of Hanukkah!

Never leave burning candles unattended. Always have adult supervision when you use matches or a lighter and never play with fire.


Copyright N. Allen - MET


Return to Let's Celebrate Index