Ancient English Christmas Traditions – Candles

This is an excerpt from the The Book of Christmas (Thomas Kibble Hervey, 1845) which describes some old English traditions connected with light.

Another feature of this evening, in the houses of the more wealthy, was the tall Christmas candles, with their wreaths of evergreens, which were lighted up, along with the Yule log, and placed on the upper table, or dais, of ancient days. Those of our readers who desire to light the Christmas candles, this year, may place them on the sideboard, or in any conspicuous situation. Brand, however, considers the Yule log and the Christmas candle to be but one observance—and that the former is only a substitute for the latter.

By our ancestors, of the Latin church, Christmas was formerly called the ” Feast of Lights “—and numbers of lights were displayed on the occasion. The lights and the title were, both, typical of the religious light dawning upon the world at that sacred period—of the advent, in fact, of the ” Light of lights “—and the conquest over moral darkness. Hence, it is thought, the domestic ceremony of the Christmas candle,—and that the Yule block was but another form of the same —the poor man’s Christmas candle.

Occasionally, the Catholics appear to have made these Christmas candles (as also the candles exhibited by them, on other occasions of the commemorations connected with their religion) in a triangular form, as typical of the Trinity. Mr. Hone, in bis volume on the subject of ” Ancient Mysteries,” gives a representation of one of these candles ;—and Mr. Crofton Croker, in a letter to us, speaking of the huge dip candles called Christmas candles, exhibited, at this season, in the chandlers’ shops in Ireland, and presented by them to their customers, says, ” It was the custom, I have been told (for the mystery of such matters was confined to the kitchen), to burn the three branches down to the point in which they united,—and the remainder was reserved to ‘ see in,’ as it was termed, the new year by.” ” There is,” says Mr. Croker, ” always considerable ceremony observed, in lighting these great candles, on Christmas eve. It is thought unlucky to snuff one ; and certain auguries are drawn from the manner and duration of their burning.”


Old Fashioned Holidays | Christmas Indexes

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