Chanukah (sometimes spelled Hanukkah) means “dedication” in Hebrew. Chanukah is a joyous eight day festival of lights that commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Chanukah centers around the lighting of the chanukiyah, a special menorah for Hanukkah which represents the story of one can oil the Macabees had that should have only last one night. Instead it lasted eight. It is traditional to prepare latkes (potato pancakes) and and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) to eat. Families sing special songs and play dreidel.
Candles are added to the hanukkiyah (menorah) from right to left but are kindled from left to right. The newest candle is lit first. (On the Shabbat of Hanukkah, kindle the Hanukkah lights first and then the Shabbat candles.)
Light the shamash (the helper candle) first, using it to kindle the rest of the Hanukkah lights. As you do, say or sing:
First Night Only:
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruling Spirit of the Universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim laavoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim hahaeim baz’man hazeh.