Candles in Religion
Candles are used in a wide range of different faiths religious ceremonies.
Candles are a traditional part of Buddhist rituals. Along with flowers and incense, candles are placed before the Buddhist shrines or images of Buddha as a show of respect. They are often accompanied by offerings of food and drink. They described the light of the candles as a representation of teh light of the Buddha's teachings. A good example of one of these festivals is Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival.
Hindu's use terracotta diyas, ritual lamps or oil candle lamps, as a general must in any religous occasion. It forms an integral part in many social rites. The diya is strong symbol of prosperity and enlightenment. Traditionally and in its simplest form, the diya is made from baked clay or terracotta and holds oil that is lit via a cotton wick. The diya has now evolved and in lots of cases wax has replaced the oils.
In the Christian religion the candle is more commonly used in worship for both decoration and ambiance, and as the symbols that represent the light of God, or specifically the light of Christ. The candle is generally placed on the altar, and a votive candle may be lit to accompany a prayer. In Orthodox churches, worshippers light candles in front of icons upon entering the church. In some churches, a special candle known as the Paschal candle, specifically represents Christ and is only ever lit at Easter, funerals, and baptisms. In certain Christian denominations, the day of Candlemas marks the end of the season of Epiphany.
In the Jewish religion, a candle is traditionally lit on a Friday evening at the start of the weekly Sabbath celebration and on Saturday night during the Havdalah ritual, which ends the Sabbath. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, is celebrated by lighting a candle in special candelabrum each night during the eight-day holiday to commemorate the dedication of the alter in the Temple in Jerusalem. Another use of candles in Judaism is to remember deceased loved ones. This happens normally on the Yahrzeit, the anniversary of their death according to the Hebrew calander. Similary, on Yom HaShoah, a candle is lit to honor the victims who perished in the Holocaust.
The candle is used in the celebration of Kwanzaa, which is an African American holiday, this runs from December 26 to January 1. The Kinara: has three red, one black, and three green candles.
For skeptics, nontheists, Humanists, and particularly secular humanists, the candle has become a symbol of the light of reason or rationality. The Humanist festival of the HumanLight often features a candle-lighting ceremony.
In Neopaganism and Wicca, the candle is frequently used on the alter to represent the presence of the God and Goddess, and is placed in the four corners of a ritual circle to represent the presence of the four classical elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. When placed and used in this manner, lighting and extinguishing the candle marks the opening and closing of the ritual. The candle is also frequently used by Wiccans and other Neopagans for meditative and magical purposes.