Candle Traditions, Belief, Symbolism, etc.There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit. - Napoleon Bonaparte
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Candle Traditions, Belief, Symbolism, etc.

Today candles are extremely popular. Seven out of ten households use candles. Although not required for lighting, we use candles for a variety of reasons including celebration, romance, decoration and fragrance. In addition many traditions and beliefs have candles as their basis.

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” - Mother Theresa


  • Ancient customs decreed that a candle was to be lit at the time of death to prevent demons from seizing the soul of the dying.
  • The Greeks and Romans lit candles or torches to accompany the dead to their last home.
  • Until the 15th century, candles used in churches were made of beeswax because it was thought that bees originated in Paradise.
  • Puritans added a bit of gunpowder to their Christmas candles to usher Christmas in with a flash and an explosion.
  • Excommunication by Inch of Candle was a form of excommunication in which the offender is allowed time to repent only while a candle burns.  


In medieval times, there was a curious practice of offering at a shrine a candle or a number of candles equaling the height of the person of whom a favor was asked.

This was called "Measuring to St. Whomever.” The practice can be traced back to the time of St. Radegund and later right through the Middle Ages. It was especially common in England and the North of France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Interesting reading about candle traditions.


A candle lighting ceremony is traditional to several age related celebrations:

  • Thirteen candles are lit by a Jewish child at the time of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
  • Fifteen candles are lit when a Mexican girl celebrates her fifteenth birthday.
  • Sixteen candles are lit at a sweet sixteen party.

Most of us have performed our first act of candle magic by the time we are two years old. Blowing out the candles on our first birthday cake and making a wish is pure magic. This childhood custom is based on the three magical principals of concentration, will power and visualization. In simple terms, the child who wants his wish to come true has to concentrate (blow out the candles), visualize the end result (make a wish) and hope that it will come true (will power).


  • Who can forget September 11, 2001? The following Friday, thousands of New Yorkers joined people across the world to mourn and hold candlelight vigils for peace.
  • Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) held an online candlelight vigil during the 2004 holiday season. People could light a “'virtual candle” and submit a tribute message to a loved one or friend impacted by drunk driving.
  • In 1992, International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) began and commemorated National Homeless Animals’ Day and candlelight vigils to magnify the significance of the overpopulation problem. The annual vigils spotlight the tragic killing of healthy dogs and cats due to pet overpopulation and provide a solution to end the killing: spaying and neutering.
  • The annual World AIDS Day includes candlelight vigils to increase awareness about AIDS, educate people about how to prevent its transmission and express support for those suffering from it.
  • The first week of October is nationally proclaimed as Mental Illness Awareness Week. In 1996, numerous mental health and mental illness advocacy organizations joined together to begin Mental Illness Awareness Week by holding a candlelight vigil at Loose Park, Kansas City, Missouri.



Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday. During this holiday, seven candles are lit which are symbols referencing the Nguzu Saba, the set of underlying values by which African people are urged to live in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs. There are three red candles to the right, three green candles to the left and one black candle in the center of the kinara. The colors are symbolic of black nationalism. Red represents the blood of the African people. Green represents the hope of new life and for the motherland, Africa. Black represents the face of the African people.


The wedding candle or wedding unity candle set includes a pillar candle with two taper candles. Just before the wedding ceremony, the bride's mother lights a taper candle along with the groom's mother. After the couple has exchanged vows, the bride picks up the taper candle her mother lit and the groom picks up the taper candle his mother lit. Together they light the pillar candle to signify their union.


Some people in the northern hemisphere celebrate the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. This is a celebration of the lengthening of days after Winter Solstice. Many people dread the cold, dark days of winter.  So when the sun begins to change its course and grows in strength again, they rejoice.  They honor the new solar year by meditating in darkness and then welcoming the birth of the sun by lighting candles and singing. Togetherness, love, family and remembering the past year's accomplishments are included. 

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