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Candle lighting around Christmas time began with the ancient Romans. During the winter solstice, they held midwinter festivals to celebrate the return of the sun. Placing a candle in the window as a Christmas symbol, however, seems to be an Irish tradition. As early as the 16th and 17th centuries, devout Irish Catholics began the practice of placing large, usually red, candles in the windows of their homes on Christmas Eve. As Irish immigrants moved to Colonial America, the practice of placing candles in the windows of their homes during the Christmas season continued. The number of candles was often limited, due to the high cost of candles imported from England.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, penal laws were passed in Britain and Ireland prohibiting the practice of Catholicism. Laws were enforced as late as the 18th and 19th centuries, prohibiting Catholics from many civil liberties and religious freedoms and forcing them to find ways to practice their faith secretly. For devoted Irish Catholics, candles in windows on Christmas Eve signified safety and welcome to passing priests and permission for Christmas Mass to be celebrated in their homes. In Colonial America, Christmas candles placed in the window were a sign of welcome to travelers and a symbol of the warmth of home during the holidays.

Traditions Today
Burning a candle in the window became a tradition in the United States early on in the country’s history. Placing a lit candle in the window symbolizes a family member or loved one that is away from home. A burning candle showed that the family was praying for the safety and protection of the person they missed. This custom is still practiced in many parts of the United States today.

Christmas Candles
Today, placing a large pillar candle in the window at Christmas time and burning it on Christmas Eve symbolizes Christ as the “Light of the World,” or the star of Bethlehem. Placing a candle in each window around Christmas time is considered a symbol of friendship.

Candle Tip of the Week

How To Light Floating Candles

Floating candles make lovely centerpieces for a dinner party, a welcoming display on a bathroom counter or romantic lights for a pool, pond or bathtub. You can use floating candles anywhere you can find water to float them in. In order to enjoy the effect of floating candles you must first learn how to light the candles, which seems tricky because they are surrounded by water, but is actually very simple.

1. Gently place the floating candles in the body of water you want to float them in.

2. Touch the flame of the candle lighter to the wick of each candle one at a time.

If a floating candle gets wet and the flame goes out, try to relight the candle. Candle wicks are covered in wax, and therefore should relight even if damp as they don't absorb much if any water. If the candle won't relight, however, heat the wick with the candle lighter to dry the wick, then it should relight.