A candle holds rich symbolism, representing both light and warmth. Many households have embraced the tradition of placing a candle in the window, with various meanings attached to this practice.
- Religious Significance
- Humanitarian Significance
- What Is The History Of Putting Candle In The Window?
- What Do Two Candles In The Window Mean?
- What Does Red Candle In The Window Mean?
- Remembering Those Who Are Away
- Welcoming Travelers From Afar
- Celebratory Candles
- Christmas Candles And Religion
- Candle In The Window Today
- Burning Candles And Fire Safety
- Various Traditions Of Putting Candle In The Window
- Candle In The Window For The Dead
- Celebration Of Samhain
- Pagan Holiday Became Church Holidays
- Candle In The Window Irish Tradition
- Why Do The Amish Put Candles On Windows?
- Candle In The Window For Soldiers
- Candle In The Window Civil War
For Christian and Amish families, placing a candle in the window represents the birth of Christ. This act reinforces their belief in the presence of light, even in the darkest of times.
Beyond its religious connotations, this tradition also carries a humanitarian message. In earlier times, when houses were often located far apart, people would place candles in their windows as beacons for tired and hungry travellers.
This signalled that the household was open to welcoming weary travellers and providing them with food and shelter.
See also: What Is Casement Window?
What Is The History Of Putting Candle In The Window?
Originating in Ireland, the tradition of placing a candle in the window first emerged many centuries ago. It began due to the British invasion of Ireland. Subsequently, persecution of the Catholic Church on the Island.
In the year 1171, King Henry II conquered the Island. The Protestant British exhibited strong disdain towards the Catholic Church, resulting in the persecution of Catholics. The Protestant movement flourished under the reigns of Elizabeth 1 and Oliver Cromwell, leading to increased prosecution of Catholics within the British territories.
In the 17th century, a set of formal laws known as penal laws were created to prosecute certain actions. These laws were further refined during the rule of William and Mary. Unfortunately, these penal laws imposed significant obstacles for Catholics to freely practice their faith.
Under the penal laws, it was mandated that all clergymen leave the country by May 1st, 1698, with imprisonment and exile as consequences for noncompliance. Additionally, any clergyman who returned to the country would face a death sentence.
Furthermore, the laws prohibited Catholics from:
- Attending mass
- Practising their faith
- Attending Catholic schools
Violations of these laws would result in penalties. For instance, confiscation of property, fines, exile, and, in some instances, death.
Despite facing persecution, Irish Catholics remained resilient in their faith. in order to avoid detection by the Protestant authorities, clergymen and priests often held secret masses in open fields, taking cover behind rocks to avoid being seen.
In addition, some school teachers had to teach Catholicism and Irish heritage in secrecy, given the opposition from Protestants. Even during Christmas, a cherished holiday in Irish culture, Catholic households still faced the threat of being caught. Nonetheless, it was customary for families to invite their local priest to perform a home holder mass and extend their hospitality.
As a result of the ongoing prosecution, it became difficult for the priest to travel and perform the sacraments. Thus, the tradition of placing a candle in the window during Christmas emerged. This custom allowed the Irish people to express their desire to invite the priest into their homes and partake in the mass.
The presence of candles in window displays raised suspicion among British soldiers. This prompted the Irish people to explain that they symbolized a warm welcome to Holy Mother Mary, Saint Joseph, and Baby Jesus. Despite facing ridicule from the British, the Irish regarded this act as a victorious defiance against the unyielding oppression inflicted upon them.
Through the passage of time, the Irish have faithfully upheld the tradition of placing candles in their windows every Christmas. As Irish communities migrated and settled in different parts of the world, this cherished custom gradually spread to numerous regions across the globe.
See also: Astragal Bars
What Do Two Candles In The Window Mean?
The Finnish people have a longstanding tradition of celebrating their Independence Day on December 6th by placing two candles in the window. This tradition originates from the birth story of Finland’s independence.
In the year 1809, Czar Alexander of Russia desired to impose his rule over Finland. However, he eventually agreed to allow the Finnish people to continue practising their culture and traditions.
Despite this permission, life remained difficult for the Finnish people under Russian rule. When Finland gained independence on December 6th, 1917, the people chose to commemorate their freedom by lighting candles. Since then, placing two candles in the window on Finland’s Independence Day has become a customary practice.
What Does Red Candle In The Window Mean?
The colour red holds profound symbolism, representing intense various emotions such as:
- Love: Red symbolizes passionate and intense emotions, including deep affection, desire, and romance.
- Scorn: Red represents anger, rage, and scorn, conveying strong negative emotions associated with betrayal or injustice.
- Courage: Red is a symbol of bravery and courage, representing strength and fearlessness in the face of adversity.
- A Single Red Candle: When placed in a window, a red candle signifies determination, resilience, and standing up to enemies. It demonstrates the refusal to be defeated and showcases the strength of character.
- Temporal Pleasure: Red may symbolize temporal pleasure, representing the enjoyment of earthly delights and indulging in sensory experiences.
Remembering Those Who Are Away
During the holiday season, a touching tradition is to display a lit candle in a window to honour loved ones who are away or dead. The candle serves as a way to reminisce and acknowledge them. Additionally, it is a symbol of hope and quiet prayer for the safe return of the absent person.
Welcoming Travelers From Afar
In the past, houses often sat on dimly-lit country roads, and people used to light a candle in the window to welcome visitors and travellers. This tradition has continued over time, and bed and breakfast hosts frequently light candles in their windows to guide travellers to their accommodations. This simple act of welcome has now become a common practice in hotels and homes throughout the year.
The candlelight in the window could also convey a message amid the darkness, symbolizing the birth of a child and the blessings the family has received. It serves as a way to celebrate and express gratitude.
See also: Victorian Windows
Christmas Candles And Religion
Various religious traditions associate the bright windows alongside candlelight with distinct symbolic meanings. Christians, for instance, may light candles to signify the guiding star which led the Magi to where Jesus was born. On the other hand, a menorah in the window could often be seen as an embodiment of the miracle of Chanukah in photos of the Jewish Faith.
Historically, the single jug of oil burned for eight days during the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Presently, the menorah remains an emblem of the Jewish people's determination to hold on to their faith, even during challenging situations.
Candle In The Window Today
Countless families worldwide have practised the timeless tradition of placing a candle in the window for centuries. This custom has evolved to symbolize generosity and hospitality.
Lit by households, a candle in the window signifies a warm welcome to those in need. It signals to travellers, visitors, and passersby that the dwelling is occupied and willing to support anyone who may seek refuge or assistance.
Burning Candles And Fire Safety
During the Christmas season, prioritize your home’s safety by exercising caution when placing a lit candle in your window. If you opt for a real flame, burn it carefully and keep it away from flammable materials.
Position it out of reach of children and pets and never leave it burning unattended. Fortunately, electric candles that use bulbs instead of flames offer a safe alternative to open flames and help maintain the safety of your cherished tradition.
Various Traditions Of Putting Candle In The Window
Apart from functioning as a means of illumination for tired voyagers or far-off family members, a candle also had significant symbolic implications. It was frequently employed as a representation of remembrance. On certain occasions, a candle would be positioned by the window to honour a departed family member who would not be coming back.
Candle In The Window For The Dead
The custom of putting a candle in the window is a customary practice in Scottish, Gaelic, and Irish residences to celebrate the homecoming of spirits of their departed loved ones. There are two unique celebrations when this tradition is followed. One of them originates from pagan rituals, whereas the other is related to a Catholic Church holiday.
Celebration Of Samhain
A festival called Samhain or Saven marked the end of the harvest season in Scotland and Gaelic regions. People would share the abundant harvest with others and light a bonfire at sunset that would burn until sunrise. These fires acted as beacons, protecting against the evil spirits thought to be present on the night of Samhain. They could be seen from hilltop to hilltop.
During the Samhain evening, it was widely held that the division separating the living and the dead turned feeble, enabling spirits to cross into the land of the living. Relatives, anxious to see their loved ones, would extend an invitation to their spirits by putting a candle in the window. Furthermore, they would leave a vacant spot at the dinner table and also arrange for the spirit to share in the harvest meal.
Pagan Holiday Became Church Holidays
Similar to other pagan festivities, the church incorporated Samhain into All Hallows Eve, which is also referred to as All Saints Day. This strategy of aligning pagan holidays with Christian traditions aimed to render Christianity more appealing to the general population. In the present era, this celebration is commonly recognized as Halloween.
Candle In The Window Irish Tradition
Ireland’s celebration of All Souls Day encompasses a treasured tradition called the Singer tradition. As part of this custom, a candle is ignited and positioned in the window to pay homage to the spirits of beloved ones from the homeland.
Furthermore, another customary practice in Ireland involves placing a lit candle in the window during Christmas. This act symbolizes a hospitable home for the holy family, Mary and Joseph, as they search for shelter on Christmas Eve, the sacred night of Jesus’ birth.
The timeless tradition of placing candles in windows endures even today, albeit with a modern twist. While open flames have given way to electric candles, the practice still holds its significance. Nowadays, window candles have become emblematic Christmas decorations that families cherish and use to celebrate the sacred season.
Why Do The Amish Put Candles On Windows?
The Amish also place candles in their windows, following a tradition similar to that of the Irish. This practice is done to honour and celebrate Christmas Eve, the sacred night when Jesus was born.
See also: Window Styles In The UK
Candle In The Window For Soldiers
Throughout the American Revolutionary War, families would customarily light a candle in their window every night their soldier was away at war, ensuring it remained burning until their safe return. Moreover, families who had lost loved ones in the war continued to honour and remember their fallen soldiers by actively lighting a candle in the window as a heartfelt tribute.
Candle In The Window Civil War
Throughout the American Civil War, people actively participated in the prevalent practice of placing a candle in the window. This was symbolic of support for the soldiers fighting in battle.
This deeply-rooted tradition can be traced back to the time of the American Revolutionary War and continued to be upheld during subsequent conflicts.