It’s December, which means it’s time for sharing some Hanukkah blessings! I can’t wait to show you this year’s handmade Hanukkah menorahs, Hanukkah crafts and our latest DIY Menorahs for kids.
Hanukkah has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not just because there are presents and sufganiyot/doughnuts, though it’s a potent combo. For me Hanukkah is a time to be crafty and whimsical and let your imagination run wild. For me… it’s Menorah crafting time! And time to listen to some classic Hanukkah tunes.
We have a prolific Menorah collection and we add a few new ones every year. The kids make them at school and my husband and I compete to craft giant, lit lawn menorahs each year. It’s crazy sauce!
Every year I make a few more menorahs, and this year is no different. I cannot wait to share them all with you. Some of these tutorials are pure whimsy, and more for show. Others are serious business – thanks to some new Amazon oil candle finds, we even have a tutorial for a DIY oil burning menorah this year.
If you have younger children, you’ll be happy to find instructions and links to easily assemble several flame-free glowstick menorahs that your children can light and keep in their rooms without any fire risks.
Eclectic and Novelty Menorahs
Modern Copper and Oak DIY Oil Menorah
Flame Free Menorahs For Kids
Giant Lawn Menorah DIYs
Super Simple Menorah Ideas
Shot Glass Menorah
The Difference Between a Menorah and a Hanukkiah
A menorah is simply a candelabra, usually with 7 branches. Not all menorahs are Hannukiahs or suitable to be lit to celebrate Hanukkah. A Hanukkah menorah or “Hanukkiah” is special in that it must have 9 branches or candles.
In summary – you don’t need 9 branches for a candelabra to be called a Menorah. But you do need 9 branches for a menorah to be a Hanukkiah.
Not all Menorahs are Hannukiahs!
For a Menorah to be Kosher and used with Hanukkah Blessings:
- The Hanukkiah’s candles or branches should all be arranged in a straight line.
- 8 of the branches should be the same height, and one branch or candle is set apart, taller than the others.*
- For the festival of Hanukkah, which tells the story of a menorah that was lit with oil, it is considered “better” to have a menorah that burns oil, and preferably purified olive oil. But oil is not necessary. Candles are also acceptable.
*The taller candle is known as the “Shamash” or helper candle. It’s lit first and then the flame is passed from the helper to all the other candles.
Electric Menorahs for Hanukkah – Can You Use them for Hanukkah Blessings?
There’s a lot of debate about electric menorahs. Some feel that there must be an actual flame for a menorah to be kosher, and used with the Hanukkah blessing. Others feel that it is perfectly acceptable to use an electric menorah. There are many situations where people simply cannot safely light a candle with an open flame. This includes people who are in hospitals, and old age homes, people who are enjoying their holiday on a cruise ship, people who use oxygen, etc. So many people!
No matter what you believe, everyone can agree that any menorah is better than no menorah!
So whether it’s merely decorative, kosher or not kosher, if you enjoy it and are telling the story, you’re doing a mitzvah (aka a good deed.)
If you are looking for an Electric Menorah – check out our round up of menorahs you can purchase.
How The Menorah Fits into the Hanukkah Story
The Hanukkah Menorah is a symbol of a military victory that happened in the 2nd century BCE.
At the time, Antiochus IV and his Syrian/Greek forces had taken control of Jerusalem and seized the temple. They had placed statues of Zeus inside and forced Jews to worship the Greek Gods. Pigs had been slaughtered inside the temple as well. The Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up against their Syrian/Greek oppressors. In a great show of force, they were victorious. They reclaimed the second temple.
When the Maccabees regained control, they needed to purify and rededicate the temple. One of the things that needed to be done immediate, was to rekindle the temple’s 7 branched Menorah. This Menorah was the community’s “eternal flame” – a symbol of their devotion that had to be kept burning at all times. The Menorah was kept lit with special, purified Olive Oil.
Unfortunately there was very little purified oil left. It would take over a week to procure more oil for the lamp, and there was barely a day’s worth. The rededication proceeded, and the community prayed the scant amount of oil would last until more could be procured. According to the legend, a great miracle was then observed. Somehow, the small bit of oil lasted for 8 days.
There is a cute meme that is printed on sweatshirts, and used to explain Hanukkah in modern terms. “It’s like your cell phone was at 10% but somehow the battery didn’t run out for week….”
Lighting a Menorah
Believe it or not, there is a “proper” order to light the Hanukkah candles! There’s even a proper order to placing the candles in the menorah.
Hanukkah Candles are placed in the menorah from right to left. But don’t get too comfortable just yet. The candles are lit from left to right!
The Shamash or helper candle is always lit first, and then used to light the other candles. Let’s break that down…
How to light a menorah on the first night of Hanukkah:
On the first night of Hanukkah you place one candle in the right-most position of the menorah. You then place the shamash – taller helper candle. The shamash is lit first and then removed and used to light the other candle.
How to light a menorah on each subsequent night of Hanukkah:
On the second night of Hanukkah, two candles are placed in the menorah, from right to left. Then the Shamash is placed. The Shamash is lit first, and then used to light the other two candles proceeding from left to right.
Oh the third night, three candles are placed in the menorah, from right to left… they are then lit with the Shamash, from left to right.
This continues, with one more candle being added each night until the menorah is full.
Fun fact: The rationale for the candles being placed right to left and then lit in the opposite direction, is so that the least shadows fall across the candles and the most light possible is emanated from them. This assumes, however, that a right handed person is lighting the candles!
Don’t worry if you didn’t follow these directions to a tee. I promise the Hanukkah police won’t come after you!
There are three blessings that are traditionally said at Chanukah, as the Menorah is lit. One of them, however, is only said on the first night. For the sake of simplicity, I am sharing the transliteration of the Hebrew, translation and a YouTube video of all three prayers.
Hanukkah blessings for every night as the candles are lit:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah
Blessed art thou our God, King of the universe, who made us holy through your commandments
and commanded us to kindle the light of Hanukkah.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, sheh-asah nisim lavotaynu ba-yamim ha-hem bazman hazeh
Blessed art thou our God, King of the universe, who long ago, in this season, did wondrous deeds for our ancestors.
Hanukkah blessing for the first night only, as the candles are lit:
Baruch atah Adonai, Elohenu Melech ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’keyimanu, v’higiyanu la’zman hazeh
Blessed art thou our God, King of the universe, Who has given us life, sustained us and helped us to reach this time