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  • Writer's picturePauline Marston

Not just a Candle in the Wind

A candle is such a simple object. A block or cylinder of wax with a central wick that is burned to give light, heat or scent. Is there anything else quite so simple, and yet can be so powerful and symbolic?

According to the National Candle Association, they have been used as a source of light and to illuminate celebrations for more than 5000 years. The earliest use being attributed to ancient Egyptians who soaked reeds in melted animal fat. And of course they have been used in religious ceremonies through time immemorial, including Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which dates back to 165BC . It was probably the Romans (of “What did they ever do for us?” fame!) who developed the wicked candle that we know today.

Ceremonial candles are still as popular as ever, bringing drama, symbolism, meaning and mood.

I recall feeling almost suffocated and my mind totally unable to deal with anything in the early days after my father’s death. And found relief on discovering that by lighting a candle the flame could ‘hold’ my thoughts of my father for me, allowing me to get on and deal with those things that needed attending to. While the flame was burning, I had not ‘abandoned’ him.

Even people who claim no religious connection, are often happy for the opportunity to light a candle, often a tea light, in a church or sacred place in memory of a loved one.

Unity candles are popular in wedding ceremonies - having two candles lit (ideally by a representative of each of the two families) and then taking the flame from both of those to light a single larger candle signifies the coming together of two souls in a way we can all see and understand. The couple perform it together, their first act as a wedded couple perhaps. Moving, symbolic, simple and with a keepsake to take away afterwards to re-light on each anniversary - what could be better?

Lighting a candle for loved ones absent from special occasions can be an emotional and significant moment in what could be an otherwise joyous occasion.

Many millions of children of all ages have delighted in blowing out the candles on their birthday cake while making a wish. So simple and yet so powerful and the treasured image that is stored in photo albums the world over.

And what about a candlelit dinner? The ultimate romantic gesture providing atmosphere as well as soft and flattering lighting.

So candles can be a good reminder that sometimes, often in fact, it is the simple things in life that can have the biggest impact.

Photo credit: Anne Clark Photography

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