Menorahs hold a very special arrangement of nine menorah candles. Eight of the candles are for each night of Chanukah, and the highest candle, known as the Shamash or "servant", is used to light the other menorah candles. Some modern followers of the Jewish religion have turned to electric menorahs, which use light bulbs instead of candles, for decoration purposes.
Menorahs play an important symbolic role in the celebration of Chanukah. Over 2300 years ago in a country called Judea (Israel) there lived many Hebrew, or Jewish people. There also lived a very wicked king, Antiochus, who ordered all the Jewish people to give up their God, religion, and customs and worship only the Greek Gods. Jewish temples were destroyed or used for his purposes and those followers who would not worship how he commanded were severely punished.
After years and many battles the Maccabees, who were fighting for the right of Judaism, overthrew the wicked King and took back their temple. (Remember Chanukah/Hanukkah means "rededication.") Upon finding oil to light the lamps, the Maccabees realized there was only enough to light the lamps for one night. That oil miraculously lasted eight nights! This is why menorahs have eight candles. Each of the menorah candles represents a night that the oil kept the lights of the Holy Temple burning.
On the first night of Chanukah one candle is lit and this continues for eight days until all eight menorah candles are shining brightly. Menorahs remind people of the Miracle that happened so long ago. The menorah candles are placed in menorahs from right to left, but lit from left to right. Special blessings are recited each night before the lights are lit.
Long ago olive oil was used in a Hanukkah menorah, but over the years colorful candles have been substituted. Some looking to buy menorahs choose electric menorahs because they can remember the holiday without fear of fire. Electric menorahs are particularly useful for families with small children, or as decorations to be placed in windows.
In Israel, Chanukah menorahs are called Hanukiyahs. They come in all shapes and sizes and resemble the Holy Temple's menorah.
The right Hanukkah menorah can be a family heirloom that survives generations. When looking for the perfect Hanukkah menorah, be sure to peruse the pages of Traditions Jewish Gifts.