Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days every year to mark the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of a single night’s worth of consecrated olive oil burning for eight days. One of the most prominent Hanukkah traditions is the nightly menorah lighting. But when do you light the first Hanukkah candle?
When to light the first Hanukkah candle?
The Menorah – a nine-branched candelabrum – is lit each night of Hanukkah, with one additional candle added for each successive night. The first candle is lit on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev, and one extra candle is lit until all eight candles are burning brightly. The traditional Hebrew blessing is then recited, usually followed by festive songs and celebration.
The date for this holiday varies from year to year in the Gregorian calendar, but is usually in the months of November or December. The first night of Hanukkah may sometimes fall on or near the same day as Thanksgiving or Christmas, although the two holidays are not connected.
The first candle of the Menorah is lit after nightfall. While there are numerous opinions on the exact time for lighting the Menorah, opinions are unanimous that the Hanukkah candles should be lit after sunset.
Lighting the shamas
The ninth branch of the Menorah is the shamas, whose purpose is to light the other eight candles. Before lighting the shamas, a Jewish blessing is recited. It is customary to place the shamas higher than the other flames. The blessings of ‘Blessed are You… Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of Hanukkah’, is then said before lighting the first candle.
It is then customary to light the other eight candles in descending order, from right hand side to left – lighting them all with the shamas. After that, the blessings are recited over each candle. It is important to note that, each night, the most recent candle is lit first and all of the other candles have already been lit.
The Blessing of Hanukkah Lights
Once the candles have all been lit, the blessing of Hanukkah lights is recited. This blessing is recited each night after the first candle has been lit. The Hanukkah lights blessing is part of the Mishnaic tradition, with its source being the Talmud.
The Blessing of the Hanukkah Lights is as follows:
- Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commands, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah lights.
- Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors, in those days at this time.
- Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.
Once the blessings have been recited, it is traditional to say three special Hanukkah prayers, before reciting additional prayers or songs.
In conclusion, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the miracle of a single night’s worth of consecrated olive oil burning for eight days was commemorated. On the first night of this festival, the first candle of the Menorah is lit after nightfall, with a special blessing repeated for the following seven nights. This marking of the first candle in the Hanukkah tradition is one of the most beloved and publicized of the holiday traditions.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.