Hark the heralds! The holiday season has begun. Across the world, it’s a special time of the year for different reasons. Even in the shared joy and beliefs, we all celebrate it a little differently. Take a short holiday trip around the world to get a snapshot of what it’s like in other parts of the globe and what their holiday candles look like.
The Advent season welcomes the official start of the holiday season among several Christian denominations. It has no fixed date and follows the liturgical calendar. It’s represented by the Advent wreath, which consists of a wreath of green leaves and four candles. Three of the candles are purple, the color symbolizing prayer, sacrifice, and atonement for sins in the waiting for Christmas.
During this time, one of the candles is lit every Sunday. The first candle is lit for hope, in honor of the prophets. The second candle stands for faith, shown in Mary and Joseph’s journey. The third candle is pink and reminds Christians of the joy that is to come. The fourth and final candle is the “Angel’s Candle,“ the purple candle of peace, and marks the last week of waiting for Jesus’ birth.
The celebration of Hanukkah lies in rich and bloody Jewish history. Several civilizations conquered the people. Hanukkah celebrates the uprising against one of these conquerors, successfully overthrowing them, which led to the rededication of the Second Temple. Hanukkah is Hebrew for “dedication,“ but it’s also known as Festival of Lights. It’s celebrated between November to December.
It’s an eight-day festival that commemorates how the lit menorah’s candles continued to burn for eight nights straight, despite having only enough oil for one. This event is known as the “Miracle of Lights,“ symbolized by a candelabrum of eight candles in a row, one added and lit per day, set alight by a ninth candle that’s separated from the rest.
In Sante Fe, New Mexico lives an old religious custom that dates back to the 1800s, originating from across the Pacific Ocean. Instead of the holiday candles on windowsills, paper lanterns line the locals’ streets and homes, lighting the way for the Holy Family. It‘s a Roman Catholic tradition that began in the Philippines.
Inspired by Chinese paper lanterns, the Filipinos placed votive candles and sand in paper bags, which have become the farolitos or luminarias known today. Some now choose to use flameless candles to make their “little lanterns“ safer, but you can still find purists making them just how their ancestors did.
Every year, African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa from the 26th of December until the 1st of January. The festival was introduced to the US in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga to celebrate the “first fruits,“ kwanza being taken from a Swahili phrase with the same meaning. It’s not one ritual from Africa brought to the US but a combination of parts adapted from several.
Like Hannukah, a candle of the seven on the candleholder, called Kinara, is lit on each night of Kwanzaa, followed by a discussion of one of the Nguzo Saba or Seven Principles. These are qualities derived by Dr. Karenga from African culture. The first candle to be lit is a black one representing unity, or Umoja. All Seven Principles are the following:
- Umoja, or Unity
- Kujichagulia, or Self-Determination
- Ujima, or Collective Work and Responsibility
- Ujamaa, or Cooperative Economics
- Nia, or Purpose
- Kuumba, or Creativity
- Imani, or Faith
Holiday Candles Across the Globe
On the windowsill, down by the road, celebrating bountiful harvests, or awaiting a beloved savior… The season and holiday candles can be different to many people, but they’re just as special. Sharing and upholding the very essence of our traditions with one another is what’s important. Happy holidays to everyone! May we continue to see the beauty and meaning in all our holiday candles.