The candle in the window is a common
Christmas decoration in Ireland

The candle in the window on Christmas symbolizes many things, but the oldest is the most important of all.

christmas candles in windowIt is a symbolic gesture to those ancient travelers who could find no shelter that there is room in this home for them and the coming child.

The candle in the window, still a favorite traditional Irish Christmas decoration, harkens back to that ancient Christmas Eve, when Mary and Joseph could find no shelter. It is a symbol of Irish hospitality, their way of welcoming Mary and Joseph...and any travelers who might happen to pass by looking for a warm place to stay.

In the days when it was illegal (and dangerous) to practice the Catholic faith in Ireland because of the oppressive Penal Laws, the candles seen in the windows of Irish homes at Christmas also signaled traveling priests that this was a home where they would be welcome and where they could safely conduct the traditional Irish Catholic Christmas Mass.

After dinner Christmas Eve, the table is set again with bread and milk. Then, the youngest member of the household is given the honor of striking the ceremonial match and lighting a very large candle to be placed in the front window.

Later, when it is time to extinguish the flame, only a girl named Mary is supposed to have that honor. Some carry out an alternative to this custom and have someone named Mary light the candle, then have the youngest blow it out. Perhaps this modern twist is better for those safety-conscious parents out there who really don't want their youngest child lighting a match at all, no matter what the tradition says! Blowing a candle out is much safer than lighting one!

One flame-free way to honor this Irish Christmas tradition would be to send a warm Christmas blessing with cards portraying a lovely Irish Christmas window with candle in the window Christmas blessing cards from Creative Irish Gifts.

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The Irish candle in the window is just one of the very symbolic Irish Christmas decorations that adorn most homes during Christmas in Ireland...

Learn about the symbolism of the Christmas Holly

Find out the mystical history of Mistletoe

Return to an Irish Christmas on Fantasy Ireland

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Fantasy Ireland is created by
Deborah A. Felker
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