Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Hanukkah Menorah
Hanukkah, one of the most iconic and widely recognized Jewish holidays, will soon be upon us, starting at sundown on Sunday, November 28 and lasting eight nights. The most central Hanukkah ritual is the lighting of the menorah, and in turn, the menorah has become an essential and beloved piece of Judaica in Jewish homes all over the world, often decoratively displayed the rest of the year as well. For more details on where the menorah comes from and the rituals of lighting one, check out our Hanukkah menorah 101 blog post.
Our store sells nearly 200 Israeli-made Hanukkah menorahs, and to help you choose the right one for you, we've put together the below guide on everything you need to know and consider before buying one, including a breakdown of all the different styles.
What does a proper Hanukkah menorah look like?
Hanukkah menorahs, sometimes also called hanukkiahs or hanukkiot, have nine candleholders - eight that are of equal height and arranged in a single row, and a ninth candleholder for the shamash (helper candle) that is set slightly apart from the others. Our site also sells 7-branched menorahs that are used for decorative purposes outside of the holiday, so be sure to look specifically under the Hanukkah menorahs category.
A suitable or "kosher" Hanukkah menorah according to traditional religious authorities has the eight candles all at the same level and in a straight line, with the ninth shamash helper candle set apart at a different height or off to the side, which can be either in the middle or at the end. Don't worry, all the menorahs in our store are kosher and appropriate for Hanukkah unless specified otherwise.
Oil or candles?
Do you prefer to harken back to the ancient Holy Temple and the miracle of oil by using an oil menorah? Or adorn your menorah with the more modern wax candles, which has been a classic Hanukkah look for generations? Oil cups can be less messy, especially gelled versions that stay solid and don't spill, but candles can be more affordable and come in a wider variety of colors and patterns.
Either way is perfectly fine depending on your preference and can be a beautiful way of commemorating the Festival of Lights, and we carry menorahs that are designed for oil, candles, or both - as well as the appropriate gelled oil cups and candles themselves.
How and when do you light a menorah?
The candles or oil cups are placed inside a menorah from right to left as facing you, so that on the first night, we use the rightmost candleholder, then add additional candles to the left as the holiday goes on. However, we light them from left to right, so that the newest candle is always lit first. You light the shamash (attendant or helper) candle first, then recite the appropriate blessings (don't worry about not knowing them, all the menorahs in our store come with a blessing pamphlet in both Hebrew and English!), and then use the shamash to light the remaining candles, starting with the leftmost, before placing it in its candleholder.
Traditionally, a Hanukkah menorah should be lit after nightfall and should last for at least a half hour. The exception is shabbat, when traditional observance dictates that candles are lit before sundown - so if you're using wax candles, they should be tall enough to last about 1 1/2 hours and stay lit well after nightfall.
Where will your menorah be displayed?
There are different customs regarding where to place the menorah - in a windowsill, near a doorway, on a table in central location in the home, or outside. Consider where you would like to place your menorah and how visible you'd like it to be when choosing the most suitable one for your home.
Should you get more than one?
That's completely up to you and your family's custom - some light one menorah on behalf of the entire household, while others hold by a custom of every member of the family lighting their own individual menorah. And many children particularly enjoy lighting their own! There's also nothing against lighting more than one for yourself or your family, so you may want to consider beautifully adorning your windows with multiple menorahs if your budget allows it!
What do you do after lighting the menorah?
Some people sing traditional Hanukkah songs like Maoz Tzur (also included in our Hanukkah blessing pamphlet!), play games like dreidel with their families, exchange gifts or give sweet treats like gelt chocolate coins, or eat foods fried in oil as another reminder of the miracle of the oil in the Temple. Whatever your traditions, you should enjoy your Hanukkah lights and the beauty of your menorah! (To learn more about the items you'll need for the various Hanukkah traditions, see our Hanukkah essentials guide here.)
What style of menorah should you choose?
Today Hanukkah menorahs come in various shapes, sizes, materials, and styles, so depending on your taste and needs, there is something for everyone! To help you decide which style is right for you, below is a breakdown of all the different types of menorahs sold in our store:
You can never go wrong with a classy, traditional Hanukkah menorah! Traditional menorahs often have curved branches atop a tall base with the shamash in the middle, or a rectangular line of candleholders set into a low base with the shamash raised in the middle or to the side. Connect with your Jewish heritage through a traditional menorah, and have a timeless piece of Judaica to adorn your home!
If your taste is more contemporary, one of our trendy, modern menorahs is sure to appeal to your fashion-forward style! These exciting and cutting-edge designs are perfect for anyone who loves a bold look, and will stand out beautifully in your home while you carry on Jewish tradition in a modern flavor.
Hanukkah menorahs from the Israel Museum are a particularly special way of celebrating Jewish heritage - they bridge the past with the present by replicating genuine historic artifacts from Jewish communities around the world, in the form of functional menorahs that you can use in your own home for your holiday rituals! Each piece comes with a certificate of authenticity from the Israel Museum and a description of its historical background in both English and Hebrew. Part of the proceeds from your purchase goes to funding the Museum, so you'll be supporting a world-renowned institution dedicated to preserving Jewish and Israeli culture and history!
❤︎ We love this glass and brass adaptation of an ancient menorah discovered in a 6th-century synagogue in Ein Gedi in the Land of Israel, as well as this polished brass replica menorah, in a 20th-century design from Central Europe that features curved branches to invoke the ancient Temple and a Star of David on top in nod to modern Zionism.
While all of our products are made by Israeli artists and craftsmen, our designer menorahs are particularly luxurious and offer a high-end, unique way of celebrating the Festival of Lights. Add one of these stunning pieces to your family Judaica collection, and connect with the Land of Israel through one of its renowned artists!
In many homes, children help kindle the family menorah or even have their own individual one to light, and this beautiful tradition helps the younger generation connect to their Jewish heritage and foster a sense of Jewish pride. A great way to make this an even more engaging experience for the little ones is through a fun, colorful Hanukkah menorah made in a special child-friendly design!
Don't forget to get the appropriate candles or oil so you can light your Hanukkah menorah! Check out our beautiful variety of pre-filled oil cups and wax candles from Israel in sets that’ll last all 8 nights. Whether you prefer oil per our ancient tradition, harkening back to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; classic white candles like the kind used by Jews for generations; or multicolored candles that can be arranged into colorful patterns - we have something for everyone!
❤︎ We love these classic white candles and these marbled multicolored candles, both handcrafted in the ancient Israeli mystical city of Safed, as well as this convenient set of pre-filled gelled olive oil cups.
Looking for more inspiration to help you choose the perfect menorah for your home or as a gift for a loved one?