The History of the Candle in the Window

The History of the Candle in the Window2If you ever travel back east during the Christmas season, you may be surprised to see a small candlestick illuminating nearly every window.  Many people do not know the history of the tradition, and think that the lighted candlestick is a way to express that their family would have allowed the weary parents of Jesus a room into their home.  Others believe that the light means that they will open their home to weary travelers if they are asked.  The tradition, however is much more complex than that.  Read on for the history of the Christmas Candle in the Window.

Lighting the Candle Started as an Irish Tradition

The candle in the window during Christmas time can be traced back to the Irish.  From 1691-1778, the British Government created many brutally oppressive laws targeting Catholics in an attempt to squash the religion, and force the Irish to obey British Rule.  These laws were know as the Penal Laws.  Priests were not allowed to practice their faith and were ordered to leave the country, so they went into hiding.  During Christmastime, Irish Catholics would light a candle in the window and leave the door unlocked, allowing priests to slip into their home safely to say Mass.  When the British questioned the Irish about the candles, they said that it was a way to welcome Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus during Christmas time.  Over time, the tradition changed slightly to become a beacon of hope for any passerby during the season.  The lit candle signaled to strangers that there would be food and shelter in that home should they choose to ask.  It also became a hope that Mary and other saints would pass by their home and bless it.  As many immigrants came to America, they brought the tradition with them.  

The Tradition Continued Through Colonial Times

During Colonial times, the candle in the window took on a few different meanings.  Following the Irish tradition, it was a beacon of safety, letting visitors know that their home would offer them refuge.  It also was a beacon to neighbors, as homes used to be very far apart.  The light shining in the window would light the way for visitors as they traveled to visit their neighbors.  The candle also represented a beacon for a family member that was away.  The family lit the candle every night in hopes that their missing member would find their way home safely.  A candle in the window could also represent joyous news, like the birth of a baby.  

The Tradition Today

Many people still participate in the tradition of lighting a candle in their window, even if they do not know it’s history.  You will find candles in the windows of many homes in the eastern states, and it is becoming more popular in the other states as well.  

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