Q: Once the festival of Chanukah comes to an end, what does one do with the stubs of the candles that blew out before burning out completely?

A: This seemingly trivial question is actually an interesting one because fuel set aside for the Mitzvah of Chanukah lights is actually considered sacred and may not be used for anything else.

However, first the issue of what is meant be “set aside” must be asked. According to Jewish law, technically one fulfills the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah once the lights have been burning for a half-hour after nightfall. The Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, explains that whatever remains from the oil or candles that were to be burnt in that half-hour is consecrated and therefore should be burnt after Chanukah so that it isn’t used for mundane purposes. But, if one filled the lamps with more oil than required for this amount of time or used candles that burn longer than this time and one is still left with leftover fuel, one may do as one wishes with leftover fuel because they were never “set aside” for the Mitzvah.

There are those of the opinion that any leftover fuel should be treated as “set aside” and burnt. Therefore, there is a custom to burn all leftover wicks, oil or wax from one’s Menorah once the festival of Chanukah ends. There is a custom in certain countries, such as in areas of Germany to have bonfires after the festival, seemingly originating from this custom of ridding burning leftover fuel after Chanukah.

Oil that is still in the bottle or candles still in the box do not need to be disposed of and one may use them in whatever manner one seems fit.

Q: Is the giving of gifts on the festival of Chanukah an imitation of Xmas conventions?

A: The origin of giving gifts on Chanukah is actually the custom of giving money (also known as “gelt”) on Chanukah.

The reasons behind giving Chanukah money are as follows:

  • The Code of Jewish Law explains that the Menorah’s candles may only be viewed in order to recall the miracle of Chanukah and not for any other purpose. Rabbi Yosef Caro, the author of the Code of Jewish Law explains that counting money is an example of what may not be done by the light of the Chanukah candles. In order to remember this rule, Chanukah money is given out.
  • The Talmud teaches that at least one candle per household per night of Chanukah must be lit even if this means that one must go collecting money from door to door in order to raise money to fulfill this obligation. The custom of giving money was originally in order to enable the poor to receive money for candles without causing embarrassment.

The custom of giving gifts of Chanukah has been adopted by some because of the proximity of the festival to Xmas and due to this, many Jewish families will give Chanukah money and not presents so as not to imitate the non-Jewish customs.