What Does it Mean to Put a Candle in the Window?

This is a guide covering what it means to put a candle in the window.

“And a candle in the window, a flame against the night

There’s a candle in the window, it’s like God’s perfect light

It don’t take a lot of money to know what riches are

Just a candle in the window”, goes a song, ‘A candle in the window.’

If you have been to the parts of the Eastern US or Nova Scotia in Canada during Christmas time, you would have seen most of the houses having a candle in the window.

Ever wondered what does it mean? The tradition of putting a candle in the window has a historical significance. It dates to centuries ago.

Some Christian families still follow the tradition to reaffirm their faith.

What Does it Mean to Put a Candle in the Window?

A candle symbolizes light and warmth. Most of the households put a candle in the window to reinforce the belief that there’s always light even in the darkest of the times.

Christian and Amish families put a candle in the window representing the birth of the Christ.

Religious meanings aside, there’s a humanitarian reason behind this tradition too. In the early years, houses used to be far away from each other.

People used to put a candle in the window as a beacon for the tired and hungry travelers.

Candles convey that the household is open to take the travelers in and provide them food and shelter.

What is the History of Putting a Candle in the Window?

As we have already mentioned, the tradition of putting a candle in the window started centuries ago.

light candle in window
candle in the window

This tradition has Irish origin. It started as a result of the British invasion of Ireland and persecution of Catholic church in Ireland.

In 1171, King Henry II invaded Ireland. The British being protestants, despised the Catholic church. They have persecuted the Catholics.

Under the rule of Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell, the protestant movement was under full force. As a result, the British persecuted the greater lengths.

They have made formal laws for persecution under the name ‘Penal laws.’

In the 17th century, under the rule of William and Mary, the penal laws were perfected. The penal laws made it extremely difficult for the Catholics to practice their faith.

The penal laws stated that all the clergymen should leave the country by May 1, 1698. If they failed to leave, they would be imprisoned and exiled.

If they return to the country, they would be given a death sentence.

Catholics were forbidden to go to Catholic schools, attend mass, or practice their faith.

If these laws were violated, they were subjected to various punishments such as confiscation, fine, exile, and even death.

During this persecution, the Irish people kept their Catholic faith strong and intact. Clergymen and priests used to hold masses secretly behind the rocks in the open fields so that they could be on the lookout for the Protestants. School teachers used to teach Catholicism and the stories of Irish heritage secretly.

During Christmas, every Irish household has a custom of inviting the priest to home, hold a mass, and offer the priest their hospitality.

Since there was a persecution going on, it’s not easy for the priests to travel and perform the sacraments.

This is how the tradition of putting a candle in the window during Christmas originated.

The Irish people used to put a candle in the window and leave the door open as a signal or an invitation for the priests to enter their homes to perform the mass.

The British soldiers have grown suspicious of the candles in the window.

The Irish people have covered that up saying that they light the candles in the window to welcome Holy Mother Mary, St. Joseph and Baby Jesus.

The British ridiculed them considering this a silly superstition. The Irish consider this a victory against the ruthless British persecution.

The Irish have been carrying this tradition on for generations. Every Christmas, they put candles in the window.

As the Irish immigrated and settled in various parts of the world, this custom has spread to multiple parts of the world.

What Does Two Candles in the Window Mean?

Putting two candles in the window is a Finnish tradition.

Every year, on the 6th of December, the Finnish people light two candles in the window to celebrate their independence. This, of course, has a back story.

In 1809, Czar Alexander of Russia wanted to declare Finland as a province of Russia. Czar Alexander was the least oppressive of the Czars.

Considering the misgivings of the people of Finland, he declared that the people can carry on their Finnish culture and traditions, as they wished.

Finnish people used to celebrate the rule of Czar Alexander and his rule and their own traditions.

Finland had to suffer a great deal due to the Russian rule by other Czars.

So, when Finland finally got the independence on 6th of December, 1917, the Finnish people celebrated their independence by lighting two candles.

Since then, it has been a custom on the independence day of Finland.

What Does a Red Candle in the Window Mean?

Red symbolizes intense emotions such as love, passion, scorn, and courage.

A single red candle in the window signifies grit and standing up to the enemies.

It can also mean getting in touch with the temporal pleasures.

Final Remarks

Whether you are of Irish or Finnish origin, or you just like brightening up your space, or you would like to light the candles as a symbol of the birth of Jesus Christ, or any other reason, go ahead and express yourself.

As long as it holds a true meaning to you, nothing else matters. The ambience is an added advantage, of course.

Make sure that you follow all the fire safety rules when you put the candle in the window. You are all good to go!