“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
A candle is something so simple but also extremely powerful.
It is the ultimate symbol of light, purity, and truth.
It penetrates the darkness, nourishes life, and gives hope.
And today, we are honored to commemorate Worldwide Candle Lighting Day.
What Is Worldwide Candle Lighting Day?
First launched in 1997 in the US, Worldwide Candle Lighting Day began as a small observance for all the children who have died due to sickness, accidents, or war.
A quiet and elegant occasion, the holiday was established to honor these children and all the joy they brought us during their short lives.
Worldwide Candle Lighting Day occurs on the second Sunday in December and is now celebrated across the globe.
At 7pm local time, people light candles for exactly one hour to remember their loved ones.
Believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the planet, Worldwide Candle Lighting Day creates a 24-hour wave of light as the ritual moves across each time zone.
The use of candles is an apt reminder that the flames of these young spirits will continue to inspire and guide us.
Candles Throughout History
Candles have been illuminating celebrations for more than 5,000 years.
Yet, very little is known about their origin.
We do know that the Egyptians used wicked candles in 3,000 B.C.
However, the ancient Romans are thought to have first developed them in order to light their homes, illuminate paths for nighttime travelers, and celebrate religious ceremonies.
These Roman candles were formed by repeatedly dipping rolled papyrus in melted beeswax.
There is also evidence that other early civilizations besides the Romans made wicked candles with different raw materials.
For example, the Chinese created their candle wicks with rice paper and the wax from a local insect, the Japanese used wax from an extraction of tree nuts, and the Indians made candle wax by boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree.
Candles also played an important role in early religious ceremonies. One of the most famous is Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday dating back to 165 B.C.
The Tradition of Hanukkah
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is also known as the Festival of Lights, a nod to the candle-lighting ceremony which lies at its center.
It is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev (i.e. the ninth month of the year on the Hebrew calendar), which means it may occur anytime from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar.
While it is probably one of the best-known Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is actually a minor holiday relative to Passover, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.
During Hanukkah, the candle-lighting ceremony happens on a 9-branched menorah which is called a Hanukkiyah. On each of the eight nights of the holiday, a new candle is lit, using the light from the 9th candle (called a shamash).
Jewish tradition states that the Hanukkiyah should have all candles at the same level except the shamash which should be located either higher or lower.
Each night, another candle is added from right to left (the same direction that the Hebrew language is read) while the candles themselves are lit in the opposite direction—from left to right.
The magic of candles is undeniable.
And in honor of candles, I would like to suggest the perfect accompaniment—a holiday-friendly plant-based appetizer called Lentil Spread.
Enjoy it with your family and friends by candlelight!
Here’s to the celebration of candles and the gift of light during the holiday season.