It is customary to eat milk foods because Yehudit, daughter of Yochanan the High Priest, was taken to be defiled by the Greek ruler Holofernes. She fed him cheese (to make him thirsty) and wine (to quench his thirst); and after getting him drunk she killed him. This was one of the events that sparked the Maccabean uprising. Food fried in oil is also eaten to commemorate the miracle of the Menorah. Latkes and donuts are the most common foods.
The minimum obligation is that every household should have one candle burning every night. It is customary to be scrupulous regarding this mitzvah: to have one candle on the first night and an additional candle every night (1-8), and for everyone in the house as well.
Any type of oil is acceptable for use in the menorah, however, it is best to use olive oil. The menorah should be similar to the Menorah in the Temple and therefore electric menorahs should not be used. Wax candles are also acceptable, providing they have a single wick.
If a number of people are lighting in one household they should make a slight separation between their menorahs
so that there is no confusion to the observer as to the number of candles. Ideally, the Menorah should be placed outside the house to the left of the entrance. Since anti-Semitism was so common throughout Jewish history it became customary among may communities to place the Menorah inside the house, near the entrance or on the table. In many families it is the custom to place the menorah in a window facing the public, especially where many people share one entrance (e.g., apartment building). In Israel it is customary to light outside in a special box that prevents the flames from blowing out.
The menorah should be no lower than three tefachim from the floor (approx. 10.5 inches or 27cm) and should be no higher than 20 amot from ground level (35.5 ft or 10.8 m). Ideally, it should be about 10 tefachim high (35 inches or 90 cm). The Menorah should have all the candle or wicks on the same level, none higher or lower than the others.
It is customary to have an additional candle (the shamash) with which to light the other candles and in order to use it’s light. The shamash should be placed in a way that shows that it is not one of the Chanukah candles. It is forbidden to derive benefit from the light of the Menorah just as it was forbidden to derive benefit from the Menorah in the Temple, and also in order to show that its purpose of the Menorah is for a Mitzvah, not just for illumination.
There are different customs as to the lighting of the Menorah. Some light at sunset. Some light about ten minutes after sunset and some light 1/2 hour after. Some specifically light after the evening service is recited (Maariv). It is obligatory to put in enough oil, or a long enough candle to burn for at least 1/2 hour after nightfall (i.e. the appearance of three medium size stars). In exceptional circumstances one may light one and a quarter hours before sunset with a blessing. (However one should be careful to put in more oil or to use longer candles). If possible it is better to appoint an agent to light candles at the correct time, than to light early. If one forgot or was not able to light at the correct time, one may light as long as people are still awake in the house in which one is lighting. It is best to light in the presence of many people in order to publicize the miracle.
All the blessings should be recited before actually lighting the candles. First light the Shamash before the blessings to avoid delay. It is forbidden to speak between the recitation of the blessings and the completion of candle lighting. “Haneirot Halalu” is recited either during or after the lighting of the additional candles. “Maoz tsur yeshuaty” is then sung. Place first candle on the extreme right of the Menorah. On the second night add a candle on the left. Light the newest candle first and proceed to the right.
The Menorah should not be moved after is has been lit. If the Menorah was lit in accordance with the requirements of Jewish law and it was extinguished, one is not obligated to relight it, but one may relight it without reciting a blessing. If the Menorah was not lit properly in the first place, or was lit in a windy place and blew out then one is obligated to relight if it went out within 1/2 hour after nightfall.
On Friday afternoon, the Chanukah candles should be lit before the Shabbat candle-lighting time. Remember to put in more oil or bigger candles on Friday, so that they burn 1/2 hour after nightfall. Try to light just before the Shabbat candles, (without of course delaying the lighting of the Shabbat candles).
After Shabbat one should first recite Havdalah, then light the Chanukah candles. One may not use the Menorah as the candle for Havdalah.
If one is a guest at someone’s house (and staying there), one should give the owner a small amount of money to buy a portion in their candles and one may fulfill the obligation through the owner. Alternatively the guest may light his own Menorah. If one is eating out then one should light the Menorah at their place of residence.
It is customary to light a Menorah in the Synagogue every evening. It is placed at the southern wall of the Synagogue, in imitation of the Menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem.