Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights, a clue that the ritual of lighting the menorah is at the center of the holiday, which brings light into the shortest and darkest days of winter (for those celebrating in the northern hemisphere). The menorah that Jews light on Hanukkah, which has nine branches (one for each of the eight days of the holiday plus an extra “helper” shamash), echoes the great seven-branched golden candelabra that lit the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. That menorah was lit with sacred oil, and many traditionalists today light their menorahs with oil as well. However, most people use wax (or sometimes soy) candles to kindle their menorah.
Click here to learn how to recite the blessings over the Hanukkah candles.
What Are Hanukkah Candles Called?
Hanukkah candles don’t have a special name, and it’s fine to refer to them as Hanukkah candles. If you’d like to talk about them in Hebrew, you can call them nerot, which is the Hebrew word for candles.
Why are Hanukkah candles colored?
Hanukkah candles can be any color, but some people prefer to buy colored ones for aesthetic appeal. There is a principle in Judaism called hiddur mitzvah, making the ritual obligation beautiful. Pretty candles are one way to do this. Some also use blue and white candles, since those are colors associated with Judaism and the State of Israel.
Where do you buy Hanukkah candles?
Hanukkah candles are widely available from major retailers like Walmart and Target or from Judaica shops. Hanukkah candles can also be easily purchased online. Many grocery stores also carry them. In a pinch, however, any candles can be used provided they burn for 30 minutes and are equal in size.
When do you light Hanukkah candles?
Hanukkah candles are ideally lit at nightfall, defined in Jewish tradition as the moment when three stars appear. However they can also be lit at any time of the night.
Explore Hanukkah’s history, global traditions, food and more with My Jewish Learning’s “All About Hanukkah” email series. Sign up to take a journey through Hanukkah and go deeper into the Festival of Lights.