In this era of electric lighting, the classic Christmas candle has fallen out of use in many households. But it’s a tradition worth resurrecting, because Christmas candles not only add beauty to the holiday, they offer deeper meaning that lends greater significance to the tradition.
The Light in the Tree
Candles have contributed to the festive traditions of Christmas for centuries. In the 1500s, Protestants began bringing evergreen trees into the home and putting candles in the boughs, following the lead of Martin Luther himself. Not only were they beautiful, they were a reminder of Jesus as the Light of the World.
This practice eventually spread to most Christian communities, especially once Christmas trees became widely accepted (for centuries, they were denounced by Church leaders as pagan). By the early 1900s, electric lights had replaced candles in trees, mostly for safety reasons.
The Light in the Window
Christmas window candles are also a part of some traditions. In Ireland, for example, families place lit candles in their windows on Christmas Eve as welcoming guides to Joseph and Mary as they look for shelter on the night before His birth. Traditionally, the younger member of the household lights the candle.
As with Christmas tree lights, Christmas window candles also indicate the birth of Jesus as the Light of the World. Some consider such candles to be stand-ins for the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Three Wise Men to the manger where He was born.
And throughout history, a candle in the window, especially on Christmas night, has symbolized hospitality.
In the early 1800s, British candlemakers and grocers began the tradition of giving large candles to their loyal customers as Christmas gifts. This helped keep the Christmas candle tradition alive, right up until the 21st century. The warmth of this tradition has also helped it stay popular.
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Christmas candles can be any size or color, but they tend to be of the long-burning pillar or taper variety, and the customary color is white. However, that shouldn’t stop you from adding your own decorative touches to your Christmas candles!
For example, you might experiment with different types of candlesticks or pedestals, or with putting them in tall containers to create lovely glowing luminaria, for use either indoors or out. Or get some non-toxic paints and paint your own designs on the sides of the candles. Stencils can be very helpful here.
There’s nothing quite like the warm, soft glow of an open flame to add a subtle, inviting nuance to your Merry Christmas season. So whether you do it for tradition or decoration, why not add a Christmas candle to your holiday repertoire?