If the term candle is quite recent since it dates back to the 14th century, the use of candles is much older. For example, candles made of rush or oil lamps were used for lighting for centuries. They were used in rites performed in the early days of religion.
They are found in basins containing oil in which wicks are dipped. They bring out darkness, illuminate and mark a higher presence. The symbolism of a lighted candle has become established in many festivals and religions. It is both a universal heritage and a personal and family history.
Christmas and Nativity candles
If you blow out your birthday candles for each new year that begins, they are also there for many celebrations, the most commemorated of which is of course Christmas. The house is gradually adorned with decorations and candles are placed in front of the windows to welcome any travellers who might come to seek asylum. During the four weeks before Christmas, the candles are placed in an Advent wreath on a festive table.
Everyone can then take a candle from this wreath to attend the Nativity Mass. Candlelight in the heart of the deep winter night is always of the most beautiful effect. It should also be remembered that candles are at the disposal of the faithful in the churches in order to recall the memory of the deceased.
The Menorah of Hanukkah, the festival of lights
A Jewish cult candlestick and indispensable for Hanukkah, the Menorah presents seven candlesticks. Its shape, as represented on the Arch of Titus, or on the mosaic of the “Shalom Al Yisrael” synagogue in Jericho, is inspired by a variety of sage. Its name would also be close to that of this plant in Aramaic.
Every Jewish household has one of these candlesticks which are used to practice the rites of Hanukkah, the Festival of Enlightenment. It lasts eight days and commemorates the restoration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. New candles are placed in the Menorah to be lit every evening after sunset and must burn at least half an hour after dark.
Buddhism and the candle
If the incense stick is very present in the Buddhist ritual, the candle is also lit on altars. It is placed in the middle of many other offerings and mainly recalls the presence of the Buddha. It is very much used to start a prayer session or any other ritual act.
In Thailand, there is even a Lantern Festival. Thousands of Buddhists gather at Ubon Ratchathani in the east of the country to donate candles to the monks who dedicate their lives to the shade, in the darkness of the monasteries. Like many other religious festivals, this one too has grown in size and the candles become true works of art.
Beyond this divine symbol and its use in many rituals, the candle is also an accessory that adds well-being to everyone’s daily life. It then symbolizes appeasement, tranquility. Rather than a cold and too direct lighting, its light is diffused harmoniously and without any aggression. It creates a special atmosphere, warmer and closer to the magic of a wood fire. It is also a way to indulge in meditation. Just stare at the flame and empty your mind to feel the benefits of this “enlightened pause”.