During the holiday season, candles glowing warmly in windows or lining mantles and tabletops have become a beloved tradition. The simple flame of a candle evokes feelings of peace, hope and nostalgia. Lighting candles is a time-honored ritual that connects us to the meaningful celebrations of generations past.
Votive candles, in particular, hold special significance in many holiday customs. These short candles in small holders are designed to burn for several hours. Their modest size makes them ideal for decorating and creating inviting holiday displays. Restaurants often place votive candles on tables to establish a cozy ambience. Homes are decorated with votives to welcome guests and spread holiday cheer.
The tradition of lighting votive candles dates back centuries. In ancient times, votives were used in religious ceremonies and burned as offerings at temples, shrines and churches. The candles represented prayers, devotion and giving thanks. Today, holiday votives lit in windows or on porches signify warmth, welcome and celebration. The soft glow extends good tidings to neighbors, carolers and passersby during festive open houses.
Candles also light up Christmas trees, wreaths, menorahs and kinaras in beautiful and meaningful ways. On Christmas Eve, families often place lighted candles in windows to guide Santa and symbolize the star that guided the three wise men. Jewish families light a menorah candle each night of Hanukkah, telling the miraculous story of the oil that burned for eight nights. During Kwanzaa, candles are placed in a kinara to represent the seven principles of African heritage.
The custom of making New Year’s resolutions and wishes while burning a candle down to midnight also has ancient origins. Letting the flickering flame melt away the old year and usher in the new is a ritual practiced around the world. The candles represent cleansing, renewal and bright hopes for the future.
Some holidays feature candles as the centerpiece of celebrations. In Mexico, Día de Muertos honors deceased loved ones with ofrendas decorated with marigolds, photos, mementos and candlelight. During Diwali, Hindus line the streets with oil lamps called diyas to triumph over darkness. And in Scandinavia, St. Lucia Day festivities revolve around girls in white robes carrying candles that symbolize spreading the light.
Candlelight adds magic to more secular traditions as well. Carolers clutching songbooks and flashlights go door to door spreading joy with classic tunes. Luminaries made from small paper bags with candles inside line sidewalks and driveways with flickering light. And lovers stroll through holiday markets and neighborhoods aglow with the romantic ambience of candlelight.
The nostalgic scent of burning wax also conjures up holiday memories. Candles now come in pine, cinnamon, cranberry and other fragrances that evoke the smells of the season. Simply lighting a scented candle can infuse homes with the essence of holidays past.
While LED lights have become popular decorations, the allure of real candlelight still tugs at our hearts during the holidays. The community menorah, the candle-lit jack-o’-lantern on the porch, the Luminaria path welcoming us home – these simple lights connect us to beloved traditions. The beautiful, evocative glow of candles represents holiday spirit, wonder and the warmth of memories. Their flame burns bright with meaning that LEDs can never replicate.
So as you deck your halls this year, be sure to save a prominent place for the holiday candles that make the season bright. Let their golden flames fill you with nostalgia and light your way to a joyous new year ahead.