In the Philippines, candles are a staple during All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, people would usually flock to the cemeteries, memorial parks, and columbaria to honor and celebrate their dead relatives.
Oftentimes, the Undas season is a time for reunions with friends and family members who live in the city. And as loved ones gather around the tomb of a dearly departed, food (kakanin is a usual fare) and flowers are offered to the dead. Candles are also lit up along with prayers. (Read: 5 Unique Japanese Principles That Everyone Should Follow)
But have you ever wondered what a candle represents in other cultures and religions around the world? Today, we look into the most unique Catholic, Hindu, and Jewish candle traditions!
Candle Traditions: Imbolc or St. Brigid’s Day
In Ireland, there’s an old Irish holiday called Imbolc or St. Brigid’s Day every February. It is originally named after the Celtic goddess Brigid—also known as Brigit or Brighid. Catholics also celebrate it, however, in honor of St. Brigid of Kildare. (Read: What do eggs have to do with Christ’s resurrection?)
St. Brigid’s Day marks the beginning of spring and candles are lit to represent the sun and longer days ahead. It is also considered one of the four fire festivals in Irish mythology with bonfires lit in the countryside. To celebrate, the Irish offer candles and corn dollies fashioned in her likeness to Brigid, both at home and in churches.
Candle Traditions: Diwali
Diwali is an ancient Hindu tradition that takes place in the late autumn in the northern hemisphere. It is usually celebrated in November, wherein Families would hold a feast and often exchange gifts. (Read: List: Official Holidays for 2021 as Announced by Malacañang)
Called the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a five-day celebration of light over darkness and marks a time for making wishes for the coming year. The eve before Diwali, the homes are cleaned and decorated. On Diwali night, people dress up and light lamps and candles inside and outside their homes. Floating lanterns and lamps are also sent out on the water with wishes to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Candle Traditions: Hanukkah
Hanukkah is celebrated in countries that practice Judaism. Also called Festival of Lights, eight candles of the menorah are lit up to represent the oil that burned for eight days. This practice is considered the miracle of light—the ability to triumph in the face of adversity and shine against darkness and evil. (Read: What is the story behind the Christmas parol?)
Each night, one candle is lit and games are played while festive food is served. The Hanukkah celebrations last for eight days and usually begin in late November to mid-December.