Meaning and History of Baptismal Candles

The baptismal candle is an essential piece in the trousseau of the baptized. During the baptismal ceremony, the parents or godparents hold the baptismal candle which is then taken home as a keepsake for the baptized.

It is important to remember that baptism is an official acceptance of the faith and integration into the church community of the person being baptized. The use of candles dates back to the time of ancient Egypt, between the 13th and 14th centuries BC. The Egyptians initially made the candles with branches muddy with ox or lamb tallow.

Now, the candles that we know today began to be manufactured in the Middle Ages, at that time tallow and beeswax were used. In the 18th century, whale sperm was used, with this material the candles were more luminous and did not give off a bad smell. In 1850, when oil was discovered, paraffin began to be used to make candles, this is the most widely used material to this day. It can be thought that the use of candles is intended to generate light. Today, thanks to technology, candles would no longer have that utility. However, it is very common to find candles in homes and churches for example.

So what is the reason why candles are still being used?
Candles are part of our culture. You couldn't imagine a birthday party without candles. In religious celebrations, such as Easter, Christmas, and Advent, candles are always used. In other non-religious activities, candles are used as well. Candles have a symbolic meaning, which is present in our cultural and emotional memory, among other things it represents the light of life. Light has always had a very deep and essential meaning for mankind. We are going to consider a particular type of light, associated with religion and spirituality.

Candles, since their creation appears in many religious rites and ceremonies. For example, in the Jewish religion, in the lighting of candles on Friday night, to celebrate the beginning of Shabbat, or the Feast of Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, in which every night for eight consecutive days a candle commemorating the consecration of a new altar in the Temple of Jerusalem after the freedom conquered by the Hellenic invaders.

Christianity gave candles and their light even more significant importance. "And God said:" Let there be light! " And the light existed” (Genesis 1,3). This is one of the first things we read in the Bible, the creation of light by God the Father. This is his first gift to the world that He is carrying out, the first visible manifestation of His Will, of His Essence because where there is God there can no longer be darkness. Liturgical candles are linked to this idea of ​​God understood as light and, above all, to Jesus as the Light of God. Jesus is repeatedly defined in Scripture as the "light that enlightens the world."

Baptism is a Christian tradition, and the candles for this ceremony have a long history. Baptism represents how the church welcomes a child into the community of faith. The early Christian church used candles in both services and ceremonies, as it still does today. In the early years of Christendom, adults were baptized; however, after the end of the 3rd century, infant baptism was introduced. Today, the baptismal candle is used in both Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions.

Baptism is the first sacrament imparted to the new Christian. This happens when you are still a newborn if you belong to a religious family, but it can be celebrated at any age. It is fundamental and indispensable because it is with it that original sin is washed from the soul, making us pure and ready to receive God in our lives. Baptism implies the use of some objects, which in this area take on a series of deep and symbolic meanings. The water, which washes the original Sin; the oil of the catechumens, as a shield against temptation and evil; chrism, which consecrates to God for the newly baptized; the white dress, the symbol of purity and rebirth; and the lit candle, which symbolizes Christ, the light of the world.

John 8:12 - I am the light of the world. The candle is given to the godparents, it symbolizes the fact that the newly baptized will not have to do their search for light alone, but that these strong and wise presences will guide them at all times, to help, advise and make them become a true Christian.

In short, the candle symbolizes light and a promise of company and strength on the path of life, which makes it a beautiful and essential element in the baptismal celebration.

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