What happens on each night of Hanukkah?

Each night of Hanukkah, we light candles in a hanukkiyahhanukkiyahחֲנֻכִּיָּהNine-branched candelabra used during Hanukkah – eight branches for each night of the holiday, plus another branch (often taller, central, or more prominently displayed) for the shamash (helper) candle, which is used to light the others. , lighting one candle the first night, two the second night, and so on, until all eight nights have concluded.

Two blessings are chanted or recited every night of Hanukkah. The first is a blessing over the candles themselves. The second blessing expresses thanks for the miracle of deliverance. A third blessing, the Shehecheyanu prayer (marking all joyous occasions in Jewish life), is chanted or recited on the first night only.

Any member or members of the family may chant or recite the blessings. One person lights and holds the shamashshamashשַׁמָּשׁHelper candle used to light the other candles in a menorah. , the blessings are pronounced, and then the candles are lit. The shamash is used to light the others, and one candle is lit for each night. The candle for the first night is put on the right side of the eight-branched menorahmenorahמְנוֹרָהSeven- or nine-branched candelabra; commonly refers to the nine-branched Hanukkah lamp; plural: menorot. . 

On each subsequent night, an additional candle is placed to the immediate left of the previous night’s candle, and the candles are lit from left to right, so that the kindling begins with the newest light. Since these lights are holy, it is forbidden to make practical use of them; therefore, a special shamash candle is used to light the others. Learn how to light the menorah with this video.

Throughout Hanukkah, families may also tell the story of Hanukkah; exchange gifts; play the dreidel game; make special foods, including latkes and sufganiyot; engage in social justice work and giving tzedakah; attend Hanukkah carnivals and other holiday events at their synagogue or with their community; and other festive activities.