The ritual of lighting a candle to pay tribute to a life of a loved one has long been a part of our culture.
Candles are a common feature in funeral services. But what exactly does lighting a candle symbolize when it comes to remembering a loved one? And what’s the best time and place to carry out this tradition?
The truth is that lighting a candle for a loved one is a common gesture, but the symbolism can vary from culture to culture. For example, candles play an important role in many different religious ceremonies, each with their own unique customs. But even those who do not practice a particular faith can benefit from setting up a memorial candle, as this gesture carries non-religious symbolism as well.
Take a look at some of the ways candles play a role in honoring loved ones who have passed.
Religious Traditions with Candles
Organized religions have formal ways of using candles to honor the deceased. The act of lighting a candle is believed to evoke special meaning in each faith tradition.
Judaism – Every year on the anniversary of an individual’s death, family members will light a candle as part of Yahrtzeit, a symbolic gesture that offers an opportunity for the family to remember the deceased and reflect on their life.
Catholicism – Light is used to symbolize God, strength, and guidance towards holiness. In Catholicism, lighting a candle is a way to strengthen and embrace the power of prayer. Churches feature rows of shared memorial candles that can be lit as a dedicational prayer for the deceased.
Buddhism – A symbol of spiritual life and the inspiration of the Buddha’s teachings, candles are regularly used as a way to facilitate meditation. Candles are commonly included in shrines and other devotional arrangements.
These three ideologies are just a few examples, and there are many other religions that use candles as part of memorialization.
Non-Religious Symbolism of Lighting a Candle
A memorial candle can be a great way to celebrate the life of a lost loved one and bring joy and comfort to family and loved ones by enabling the ritual of remembrance to be perpetuated and a candle lit each day to ease the pain of loss.
Candles can also be used by those who do not identify with a religious tradition. The flame is often considered a source of guiding light in a place of darkness, which can symbolize the essence of hope for those who are grieving. Those who plan on keeping urns at home often find it soothing to include one or more candles near the ceramic urns. Lighting the candles can provide a moment of peace to remember loved ones.
The flickering flame of a candle also provides a reminder of the fleeting nature of life, which can help those who are grieving gain a sense of appreciation and self-reflection for their own life, while also remembering those they have lost and actively keeping their memory alive.
There is an abundance of meaning to be found in lighting a candle, even if it is done outside of an organized religious tradition.
Cremation Urns with Candles
While churches, shrines, and other religious spaces offer a designated area to light candles, many people prefer to have an option for lighting candles at home. One way to accomplish this is to have cremation urns for ashes at home that feature a small candle. Keeping urns at home close to memorial candles can help families create a personalized space for connecting with their loved one’s memory in private.
Some artisan urns are intentionally designed to include a small candleholder. Specially handcrafted urns may feature certain elements, like marble, stone and stunning curves, to help illuminate the area, making the gesture of lighting a memorial candle even that much more beautiful.
The lighting of a memorial candle serves as a way to honor and pay tribute to the life of the deceased. It also symbolizes the continuation of the life of the deceased in spirit, and serves as a reminder that the memory of the loved one will live on.
Overall, the meaning of memorial candles is deeply rooted in the idea of remembrance, honor, and respect for the lives of those who have passed away.