If you are new to this holiday, need a refresher, or are just plain curious, here's the lowdown on lighting up for the Festival of Lights.

The candles for a Hanukkah menorah are thin tapers, and 44 are needed for the eight-day holiday. Each night, a shamash, or helper candle, is lit; that is used to light the others, one on the first night and an additional one each night.

Like Sabbath candles, Hanukkah candles are allowed to burn out on their own. They are not blown out like birthday candles.

So in the interest of safety, place the Hanukkah menorah on a flat platter covered with aluminum foil, rather than directly on a tabletop.

Next, consider using a bobash, or drip cup, in each well to stop candle wax from dripping onto your good table or tablecloth. A set of nine bobash cups sells for $10 at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

If you do find yourself with a waxy mess the morning after, apply heat from a hair dryer to remelt and remove the old wax. This is definitely a job for adults, and remember that the dryer will heat all the metal on the menorah, not just the bit surrounding the candle well. So watch what you touch.

Remove candle wax from linens using an iron. Cover the hardened wax with a few layers of newspaper or parchment and go over that with a hot iron set on a medium and steamless setting.

Natural beeswax dripless candles are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional candles. That's because you breathe what you burn and paraffin candles are made from petroleum byproducts.

Even so, an electric menorah with LED lights (which use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs) may be the most energy-efficient and safest option. Bed Bath & Beyond sells an LED menorah for less than $60.

For the traditionalist who wants to return to burning oil in the menorah, the National Museum of American Jewish History offers a nifty box of premeasured, self-contained oil cups that are inserted into each well and can transform almost any menorah into the oil-burning variety. A set of 44 cups is $40.

- Dianna Marder