Chanuka starts B'H tomorrow, Wednesday December 1st, 2010.
1. The Chanuka candles are kindled in the evening preceding each of the eight days of Chanuka. The custom of many communities is to light the Chanukia shortly after sunset, which is approximately 4.30 PM. Other communities light it at nightfall (5.00 PM). In either case, the candles must contain enough fuel at the time of the lighting to burn until 30 minutes after nightfall.
If one did not kindle the Chanuka lights early in the evening, they can be kindled later, when the family is home.
2. The candles could be made of wax, paraffin, regular oil, etc., but ideally one should use olive oil, because the miracle of Chanuka happened with olive oil. Another advantage of oil is that normally oil candles will last for more time than small wax candles.
The Mitzva of Chanuka candles cannot be performed with 'electrical candles', even when real candles are not available. An electrical Chanukia, however, can be used in addition to the regular Chanukia especially during day time.
3. Some families have the tradition to place the Chanukia outside the door, on the opposite side of the Mezuzah, which technically speaking is the best place for it. Nowadays, however most families place the Chanuka candles inside the house, close to a window, in a spot that could be visible from outside.
Q&A: Who lights the candles when the husband is on a business trip?
Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024