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.
Measuring up to a saint
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.
- 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.
Candles in Weddings
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.