History and Legends
Christmas is the season of lights, and Christmas candles have always been central to lighting the Christmas season.
The tradition of placing Christmas candles in windows dates from the beginning of Christianity. A large candle was lit on Christmas Eve, symbolizing Christ, the light of the world. It burned throughout the night to mark the nativity--lighting the way for Mary and Joseph. This ancient custom continues today in European countries such as France, England, Ireland and Denmark.
The Legend of the Christmas Candle
Many years ago an old cobbler and his wife lived in a little village in Austria. Although very poor, whatever they owned they shared with others. Each night they placed a lighted candle in the window of their cottage as a sign of hospitality to any traveler needing shelter.
Through the years, war and famine plagued this little village. Yet, as though some mysterious charm guarded them, the cobbler and his wife suffered far less than their neighbors.
One evening, on the night before Christmas, the villagers gathered to discuss their plight. "There is something special about the cobbler and his wife," said one villager. "They are always spared our misfortunes. What do they do that we do not? Let us put a candle in our windows too. Perhaps that is the charm."
That night every home lit a Christmas candle in each window, and lo, before the sun rose, a messenger brought great news to the village. Peace had come! The villagers gave thanks to God for this blessing of Peace and vowed to always light candles on Christmas Eve.
This beautiful custom spread throughout the world, and each year millions of Christmas candles light up the world with a message of love and everlasting joy.
Current Uses of the Christmas Candle
Today, there are several common uses of the Christmas Candle. Historically, the Christmas candle is a single large candle that is lit on Christmas Eve to burn throughout the night. Its representation is usually Christ, "The Light of the World," but it can also represent the star of Bethlehem. People in some countries place the Christmas candle in the middle of an Advent wreath with four smaller candles around the wreath. Each of the small candles is lit every week that leads up to Christmas then the large Christmas candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
Many people hold to the tradition of placing a Christmas candle in each front window of their houses as a welcoming symbol of friendship.
Germans used to place their Christmas candles on the shelves of wooden pyramids in their homes. Today, they place their electric candles on their Christmas trees.
Giving Christmas Candles as Gifts
In the 1800s, grocers and candle makers in England gave loyal customers a large Christmas candle as Christmas gifts. Today, Christmas candles continue to be a great gift at the holiday season. With the Christmas candles' variety of scents, shapes and sizes, the giver can always give a unique gift. And of course, the Christmas candle's history and traditions make it a popular gift idea.
Today, the danger of fire from Christmas candles is greatly reduced by electronic Christmas candles, which flicker as if with a flame, and Christmas candle warmers, which warm the wax and spread the candle's aroma throughout the room.