Hanukkah candle holders or ‘hanukkiyah’ hold really small candles. They are a little bigger than birthday candles but much smaller than normal candles. Around here you can’t buy them in a store. You can order them on Amazon here and here. Or you can make them using this kit. You can also make them from craft beeswax sheets like we did.
The candles are lit every night of the 8 nights of Hanukkah, beginning on night one with 1 candle plus the shammash or servant candle. These are allowed to burn down naturally in the holder. The following night 2 candles are lit with the servant candle and all three are allowed to burn down naturally. This sequence continues each night of Hanukkah with 1 more candle being added each night. On the final night of Hanukkah 8 candles are lit, plus the servant candle. And all 9 candles are allowed to burn down naturally. You’ll need 44 candles all together for all 8 nights of Hanukkah.
Chose beeswax candles for your Hanukkah Menorah
I prefer to burn beeswax candles in my home rather than paraffin candles, which are a petroleum product, with toxic fumes. Beeswax candles give off negative ions when they burn, which cleanse the air of toxins and impurities. The faint honey scent is relaxing and creates a transcendent atmosphere in my home.
How long do the beeswax Hanukkah candles burn?
The time it takes to burn down depends on the candles. These hand rolled beeswax candles last about 90 minutes. Long enough to eat dinner, and to play a few games of dreidel (Hebrew: סביבון sevivon). The hand dipped beeswax candles last longer – 2 to 3 hours, depending on how long you make them. 4 inches long seems to work best for the Hanukkiyah, for safety and stability.
Making rolled beeswax candles for your hanukkiyah
Making your own beeswax candles for Hanukkah is a fun family activity that kids can share in. Read through the directions fully before you start. Children as young as 6 can take part in the craft.
What you’ll need:
To make hand rolled beeswax candles for your hanukkiyah you’ll need:
- 3 sheets of beeswax – honey combed or patterned in the colours that you like
- #2 wick cut into 44 5inch pieces
- A hairdryer
- A ruler to measure before you cut
- A craft knife or sharp scissors
We used the beeswax sheets that we had on hand in blue and red, but you can use whatever colours please you. Rainbow colours or all white or all blue are all available in the markets. However red and green Christmas colours probably shouldn’t be used, because of their association with Babylonian sun worship and solstice celebrations.
- Measure your sheet of beeswax. If you have the honey comb style beeswax you’ll cut your candles 4 inches high by 2 inches wide. If you have a heavier beeswax sheet, like the corduroy sheets we used, you’ll cut your candles 4 inches high by 1 ½ inches wide. You’ll get 16 candles from a honey comb style beeswax sheet and 20 candles from the heavier sheets of beeswax. I found that once I had the initial measure, I was able to simply fold the sheet in half to measure the other cuts of the beeswax.
- Work on a board rather than directly on a table or cloth. The beeswax dye can bleed while you are working with the wax and it will stain your work surface.
- Working with one piece of beeswax at a time, lightly warm the wax with a hairdryer. You will see the colour of the beeswax darken and look moister. You want to just warm it to make it pliable. You don’t want to melt it. It takes some experience to get this right, so try it on a scrap of wax before you work on your good candles. If it does get too warm, let it cool a bit before you work with it.
- Place your wick along a long edge of your beeswax piece.
- Fold the edge over the wick to trap the wick in the wax. This is the centre of your candle. Press the wax firmly into the wick.
- Begin to roll your candle using both hands to keep the candle roll even. It doesn’t take long. Try to keep the candle tight as you roll and minimize air pockets.
- Warm the seam briefly with your dryer and then roll the candle firmly against your board to seal the seam and even out the candle, keeping it straight. One candle is done.
- Repeat these steps with each of your 44 candles. It took Sarah about 2 hours to roll 46 candles from our beeswax sheets. If you are using all honeycomb sheets you’ll get 48 candles from the 3 sheets. Since we had a combination of honeycomb sheets and corduroy sheets we used 2 sheets of corduroy and only ½ sheet of honeycomb style beeswax for 46 candles. Your mileage may vary.
How to light the Hanukkah candles
The candles are lit in a particular way that is steeped in tradition. On night one of Hanukkah a single candle is placed in the far right place in the hanukkiyah. The shammash candle is lit with a match and then the servant candle is used to light the single candle. The shammash candle is then placed in its position on the hanukkiyah, if your hanukkiyah has 9 spots for candles. If it has only 8 spots then the shammash candle is placed in the far left position each night until the final night of Hanukkah.
The candles are lit at the beginning of the family meal and then allowed to burn down naturally. In some families each family member has their own hanukkiyah to light. If the family has only a single hanukkiyah then the head of the house lights the candles in the hanukkiyah. Lighting the candles reminds us that we are meant to be a light in the darkness and it reminds us of the set apartness of the people of God. That the people of God aren’t meant to blend in with the people of this world and be like the world. But rather the people of God are meant to bring light to the dark places.
The story of the first Hanukkah
The lighting of the Hanukkah candles also reminds us of the courageous story of the first Hanukkah, found in 1st and 2nd Maccabees, a historical account of the struggle of the Jewish people to retain their traditions in the face of death, torture, and the threat of annihilation. God intervened for them, allowing them to take back Jerusalem from the Greeks, on the 25th of Chislev 165 BCE, and allowing them to rededicate the Temple of God in Jerusalem. (The following year was a Sh’mitah year – year 7 of the 7 year Sabbath cycle.)
The Temple of God was desecrated by the Greeks. A statue of Jupiter was placed in the temple. Swine, the requisite sacrifice to Jupiter, was placed on the altar of the Most High. The Temple was defiled and had to be cleansed and rededicated, before proper worship could be reinstated. The perpetual oil lamp (menorah) that stood before the entrance to the holiest place in the temple was dark. The priests dedicated themselves to cleaning up the temple. They scrubbed and cleaned. They tried to wipe out every trace of idolatry from God’s temple.
The priest of God found a vessel of holy olive oil, consecrated, in a sealed vessel. But it was only enough oil to keep the lamp of the temple menorah burning for a single day. It would take 8 days for kosher olives to be pressed and the oil sanctified so that it could be used to keep the lamp burning perpetually. In spite of the lack of oil the priest lit the Temple menorah. Miraculously, the menorah continued to burn for the full 8 days, while fresh oil was prepared and sanctified according to the instructions passed down from Moses. The temple was dedicated to the service of Adonai and worship continued, even though the struggle with assimilation wasn’t over. The Seleucid dynasty didn’t end until 129 BCE, more than 3 decades later. (If you are keeping track, this was also a Sh’mita year.)
What does Hanukkah mean today?
This reminds us that even though the struggle isn’t over we can still be joyful, and be the light we were meant to be. It’s not something that has to wait until we are perfect and we live free of struggle. God is still in control and we can still shine his light in the darkness.
Hanukkah is called the Feast of Dedication in the English Bible and it is a festival that Jesus/Yeshua went to Jerusalem to observe. (John 10:22) (FYI, this is the only mention of Hanukkah in the Bible.) At Hanukkah Jesus declared that the people of God will absolutely never be destroyed and no one will snatch them out of Abba’s (The Father’s) hands. As a follower of the Way, lighting the Hanukkah candles reminds me that nothing will snatch the people of God out of the Father’s hands and they will never be destroyed. When you look at the biggest prophetic fulfillment of our time, the reality of the nation of Israel today and the Jewish people returning to the land of Israel you can see that Jesus spoke truly. עם ישראל חי
Making candles for Hanukkah and lighting the hanukkiyah are a new tradition in our family. As is playing the dreidel game, while the candles in the Hanukkiyah burn down. Funny, that eating latkes and jelly donuts came into our family tradition more than 30 years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that we found out why it was important.
The Laboroso family wrote this song for Hanukkah 2011. Chag Sameach!