There is a certain Christmas tradition in the UK which has prevailed for generations. It involves putting a candle in your window. Though other traditions, like presents under the tree, are more prevalent, many people still have a special place in their hearts reserved for it. But what exactly does it mean and what are its origins?
Lighting the candle and putting it on your window sill dates back to colonial times. Irish Catholics used to face intense repressions from the British, which prevented them from overtly practicing their faith. Priests had to perform their rituals underground, while believers left candles lit in their windows and their doors unlocked, signalling to priests that their home was safe to visit. Of course, times have changed and this is no longer the purpose of the candle, and most people don’t even realise its significance. Nowadays, it serves more of a symbolic role.
We put up candles for Christmas as a shining beacon of hope. The light within the darkness reminds us of all the family members that are gone. Whether they’re just far away and unable to turn up, or no longer among the living, the candle can act as a form of prayer for them. It’s a quiet reminder that Christmas is about so much more than just the consumerist craze connected to presents. In a similar vein, it is also used to welcome travelers come from afar, who may be in need on this special night.
Christians are far from the only religions to practice putting up a candle in their window. Though in Christianity, the candle acts as a representation of the Star of Bethlehem, Jewish people put up something called a menorah in their windows. It’s a custom related to the celebration of Hanukkah, which is usually celebrated at around the time Christmas is. Nowadays, it serves the role of a symbol of their undying faith.
But the candle doesn’t have to have a religious or even spiritual meaning. It can serve as a symbol of helping those in need, or a simple decoration. It’s a means of spreading happiness by reminding people that no amount of darkness can ever distinguish the light of a burning candle. And it’s that sense of hope that has made the tradition prevail to this day.