I got home about 1 hour after nightfall, can I light chanuka candles before praying maariv as the next available minyan is later?


Yes, this is fine.

The mtizvah of lighting Chanukah candles should be fulfilled as soon as possible, and therefore one should not wait until maariv before lighting.

Although if one has both mitzvos before him, maariv on the one hand and the Chanukah candles on the other, one should daven first (because of the principle that a regular mitzvah comes before an irregular one), in this case there is no minyan presently, and if one has to wait until later for davening one should certainly light first.

Best wishes.

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