Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights, and includes the ritual lighting of eight candles. But why eight candles and not four, six, or some other number? Read on to learn about the significance of eight candles during Hanukkah.
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Meaning of the 8 Hanukkah Candles
The 8 Hanukkah candles symbolize the miracle of the oil. During the celebration, a Hanukiyah or Chanukkiah, a special menorah, with 9 total candle holders, is lit gradually over the eight-day holiday period.
The Eight Candles
The Hanukiah holds 8 candles that represent the 8 days of dedication. From right to left, these 8 candles correspond to the nights of the Jewish celebration: The one on the far right is the first night of Hanukkah, while the one on the far left the last. The 9th candle, the one in the middle, is called the Shammash (or “servant”) candle. It is distinct from the rest because it is used specifically to light the rest of the lamps each night.
Using the Shammash
For Hanukkah, the Shammash candle has several important uses. Every night, it is used to light the other 8 candles. It also serves as the primary light of the ritual, and is the main candle used for blessings after the Hanukkah lights are lit.
Lighting the Candles
On the first night of Hanukkah, only one candle should be lit: The Shammash candle. It its then used to light the first candle, and so forth for the remaining seven. This ritual is repeated each night, so that, by the end of the 8th night, all 8 candles are lit.
The eight candles of Hanukkah represent the eight days and nights that the rededicated temple’s originally small supply of oil burned. Hanukkah is both a celebration of the miracle of the oil, and a reminder that even during difficult and uncertain times, miracles can occur and faith is rewarded. Celebrating with family and friends, lighting the Hanukkiah, and enjoying the foods of the season bring joy to the Jewish community around the world.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.