Would It Be Wrong to Light a Candle in Memory of a Deceased Loved One? (2023)

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Would It Be Wrong to Light a Candle in Memory of a Deceased Loved One?

It depends.

Before answering the particular question at issue, we need to understand that a true Christian is not obligated to avoid a certain practice or conduct, only because pagans are engaged in it. We addressed this question in two previous Q&As, titled Should Christians Use Symbols which Are Used by Pagans? and Should Christians Wear Wedding Rings?.

We pointed out the following in the Q&A on wedding rings:

“… we must be careful that we do not… prohibit everything, whether it is used in worship services or otherwise, only because pagans might have engaged in it. We addressed this issue in a recent Q&A, which answered the question as to whether Christians should use symbols which are used by pagans. Among other symbols, we discussed the symbol of the heart, certain symbols which are being used in sign language, the Star of David and the symbols of stars in general. We also pointed out that the mere fact that pagans and occultists attach a particular meaning and human interpretation to certain symbols should not compel a Christian to refrain from using these symbols. This same principle applies to wedding rings…

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“Inasmuch as the Bible has to be our guide on whatever questions might arise, it is immaterial as to what superstitious meanings pagans and occultists may give to their use of wedding rings. Since the Bible clearly allows the wearing of wedding rings, pagan and occult interpretations are meaningless for us—as long as we do not wear wedding rings with a superstitious understanding of occult practices.”

This same principle applies to the lighting of candles in memory of a deceased loved one.

Even though not compelling, it is still interesting to note that this tradition has been used in Judaism.

The website of JewishBoston.com addressed the question: “Where does the custom of lighting memorial candles for the dead come from…?”

Rabbi Neal Gold responded as follows, especially addressing the annual memorial day of “yahrtzeit” — the yearly anniversary of a loved one’s death which goes back to Talmudic times:

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“A Yahrtzeit candle should be lit on the evening of the anniversary (remembering that in the Jewish calendar days begin at sunset). If the anniversary falls on Shabbat or on a holiday, the Yahrtzeit candle is lit before the Shabbat/holiday candles. The candle typically will burn for 24 hours…”

We are also informed by another source that Jews light a Yahrzeit candle to remember someone who brightened our lives, stating that amid the sadness and gloom of mourning, light is a symbol of hope and of comfort. Mourners light a candle in honor of the decedent that burns for 24 hours. This ceremony is conducted on the anniversary of special family members each year to ensure that their memory is cherished. In addition, during services on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Passover, and Shavu’ot, close relatives recite the mourner’s prayer, Yizkor (“May He remember…”) in synagogue. Yahrzeit candles are also lit on those days.

Even though the Bible does not say anything about an annual memorial of loved ones (or a “Yahrtzeit”), it is important for us to note that the lighting of candles is associated with it, as well as on other occasions in Judaism, without pointing at any pagan origin.

At the same time, we find in Scripture that mourning for dead loved ones and also remembering those who have died is very clearly not against God’s Will. We read in Genesis 37:34-35 that Jacob mourned many days for his son Joseph (whohe thought had died). In turn, the Egyptians mourned for dead Joseph seventy days (Genesis 50:3-4). The Israelites mourned for Moses thirty days (Deuteronomy 34:8). A reference to a long-time mourning for the dead is also found in 2 Samuel 14:2-6. King David mourned for his dead son Absalom even though he had betrayed him (2 Samuel 19:2-4). We read that Israel will mourn for Christ and His death, when they realize why Christ died, “as one mourns for his only son, and… as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

As we will see, since we are allowed to mourn over the death of a loved one, we most certainly are allowed to express our good memories of him or her and our hope in his or her future life.

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It is true, of course, that lighting a candle is applied in Catholicism and paganism. Candles burning in a Roman Catholic church are thought to continue the prayer’s petition long after he/she has left the church. But to ascribe power to candles is unbiblical. On the eve of All Souls’ Day in Ireland, families lit a candle in the window to guide the souls of the dead back to their old homes. Candles are lit for the dead as a way of symbolizing their rebirth and transition. This is equally unbiblical, as man does not possess an immortal soul which continues to live when a person dies.

This brings us to the question as to whether a Christian would be free to light candles in memory of a deceased loved one, as long as he does not do it with the wrong understanding of ascribing power to the candle or believing in an immortal soul concept.

We know that in Old Testament times, candles played an important role even in worship services. We read about the golden lampstand with seven lamps (Exodus 25:37), and the lamps had to burn continuously (Exodus 27:20-21). In the New Testament, Christ often used the symbol of light to express His love and concern for the world, and we are told that we are the light of the world and that we are not to light a lamp (or a candle) and put it under a basket. New Testament Christians would light candles at the beginning of the Sabbath, as they would do in the evening of every new day (remember, they did not have any electrical lights). In addition, Christ refers to entire churches as “candlesticks.”

There is rich symbolism in the act of lighting a candle on behalf of a loved one, if we combine with it the contemplation on the promise that one day our loved one will rise from the dead and that we will see him or her again.

We read in Proverbs 20:27 that every human being has a spirit, which is the “lamp of the LORD.” The Authorized Version says that the human spirit is “the candle of the LORD.” Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us that when a person dies, his or her spirit goes back to God in heaven who gave it (compare Zechariah 12:1). God preserves the human spirit in heaven until He uses it for the resurrection of the dead person. We understand of course, that the spirit in man is not conscious while it is preserved in heaven. It is not a living soul, and we do not pray or communicate in any way to the human spirit or a conscious soul, when we think of a deceased loved one, by lighting a candle.

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Nevertheless, in lighting a candle for a deceased loved one, we might think of the fact that his or her spirit (“the lamp of the LORD”) is preserved in heaven and that God has promised that one day, the deceased loved one will be resurrected and brought back to life. We read in Hebrews 12:22-24 that in prayer to God, we come to the heavenly Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and church of the first-begotten registered in heaven, AND to the “spirits of the just men made perfect.” But the promise of the preservation of the human spirit and future resurrections applies to everyone—not just to those who have been “made perfect” and will be in the FIRST resurrection. The overwhelming majority of human beings will be brought back to life in a SECOND resurrection (compare Revelation 20:5, speaking of the “first” resurrection, with Revelation 20:11-12, describing the second resurrection).

To light a candle in memory of a loved one would not be wrong with the understanding, as described herein. However, we do not advocate, nor will we follow the practice, of lighting candles in general church services—apart perhaps from a one-time special memorial service for a deceased loved one.

The comments herein are meant to constitute a permission and not a command. If someone would feel uncomfortable with lighting a candle for a deceased loved one at any time, he or she should not do it, because whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

FAQs

What does it mean to light a candle for someone who died? ›

The ritual of lighting a candle to pay tribute to a life 'passed' has long been a part of our culture. Keeping a light burning in remembrance signifies that the memory still lives on and burns bright. It is a ritual that promotes reflection and signifies remembrance.

What do you say when lighting a candle in memory of someone? ›

People: We light a candle to honor our grief and give thanks for the lives of our loved ones. May this light guide us forward toward healing and peace. Leader: We acknowledge the power in this holy act of remembrance and honor the ones we have lost by sharing their light, as well as our own, with others and the world.

What the Bible Says About lighting candles? ›

Matthew 5:15

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

What is a memorial candle? ›

A yahrzeit candle, also spelled yahrtzeit candle or called a memorial candle, (Hebrew: נר נשמה, ner neshama, meaning "soul candle"; Yiddish: יאָרצײַט ליכט yortsayt likht, meaning "anniversary candle") is a type of candle that is lit in memory of the dead in Judaism.

Why light a candle at a memorial? ›

The lighting of a candle in memory of a loved one is a symbol of remembrance. It is practiced in many cultures, faith traditions and societies across the world. Lighting candles can bring serenity, focus and comfort at your loved one's service.

What does the color blue mean when someone dies? ›

Blue is the colour that defines the lack of lack of oxygen in the blood, the colour that replaces the red of life. Blue is the colour of creeping Livor Mortis as a body's life force submits to the rigours of gravity in death.

Do candles help with memory? ›

The smell of scented candles stimulates our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotions. Hormones like serotonin and dopamine can be produced to help regulate mood.

Is candle memory real? ›

The first time you light and enjoy your new candle sets the stage for how well the candle will perform throughout its lifetime. Candle wax has a memory. This means that your candle remembers where it is burnt up to on that first burn and will only ever burn up to the point it was last extinguished.

How do you honor someone's memory? ›

Four Ways to Honor Someone's Memory and Keep Their Legacy Alive
  1. Tell their stories. Recalling your favorite stories–the ones that really showcase who they were–and sharing them out loud can be a great way to honor someone. ...
  2. Do something they loved. ...
  3. Spend your time wisely. ...
  4. Fundraise.
27 Jan 2022

What color candle do you burn when someone dies? ›

By keeping a light burning in remembrance, it signifies that the memory lives on and is still burning brightly. What is this? Funeral candles are commonly white; white symbolizes purity and represents the soul of the person who has died.

What is the meaning of candles spiritually? ›

In ancient times, candles largely symbolized the divine. They are believed to contain the gifts of the godsas the Greek gods gave the fire to Prometheus for illumination and progress. The ancient Greeks used candles to light the temples of the gods and to offer sacrifice.

What does lighting a candle mean? ›

Lighting a candle symbolizes bringing light to our wishes or desires. A candle can be lit as a prayer for peace or a request for healing. People of Christian faith believe that lighting a candle symbolizes the light of Christ. Dr.

Why do Catholics light candles for the dead? ›

Why do we light candles for the dead? Catholics light candles for the dead as an act of remembrance or as a prayer for their souls. They can light candles at any time, however death anniversaries and All Souls Day are particularly popular dates to light candles in prayer for the dead.

What do you wear to a candlelight memorial? ›

You can wear a shirt or dress with a pattern, just make sure it is subdued. Don't go too casual. Avoid wearing casual clothes like t-shirts and jeans. Business casual is typically acceptable.

What does the candle symbolize in funeral? ›

It's a form of sacrifice.

Burning a candle serves as a sacrificial gift or offering for the eternal repose of our loved ones.

Can you light a candle at a grave? ›

You are welcome to light a candle or incense while visiting the grave-site, provided you extinguish it and take it away with you.

What happens in the last minutes before death? ›

Facial muscles may relax and the jaw can drop. Skin can become very pale. Breathing can alternate between loud rasping breaths and quiet breathing. Towards the end, dying people will often only breathe periodically, with an intake of breath followed by no breath for several seconds.

How long after death does the body turn black? ›

Putrefaction (4-10 days after death) – Autolysis occurs and gases (odor) and discoloration starts. Black putrefaction (10-20 days after death) – exposed skin turns black, bloating collapses and fluids are released from the body.

When a person dies they have 7 minutes? ›

Amitabh Bachchan on Twitter: "T 1170 -'When a person dies, they have 7 minutes of brain activity left. It's the mind playing back memories. '~" / Twitter.

What scent is good for memory? ›

"Rosemary is known to stimulate the mind and the memory." In research conducted at Northumbria University in the UK, inhaling rosemary essential oil improved both speed and accuracy on demanding mental tasks, and raised memory test scores by more than ten percent.

How long do memory candles last? ›

Shared Memory candles remain in an area for 6 days at the moment and this number may be subject to change in the future. Players can tap the heart icon when viewing someone else's Shared Memory to “like” it, and after a certain number of “likes” the person who shared the original memory recording will receive a Heart.

Does lighting affect memory? ›

Bright light exposure activates regions of the brain that promote alertness, and improves cognitive performance [3]. Light activates factors that are essential for memory formation [4], as well as factors that are important for the regulation of mood and overall brain health [1].

Is there stored energy in a candle? ›

The wax is a store of chemical energy. The wax transfers energy to surroundings as light and as heat. The heat energy dissipates to the surroundings. The chemical energy store is decreasing and is being converted into heat and light.

Does a candle have stored energy? ›

Chemical energy**

A matchstick has a lot of chemical energy stored in it. When the match is struck, it burns and the chemical energy in it produces heat energy and light energy. Candles also possess a lot of chemical energy.

Are memories 100% accurate? ›

Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to details. Scientists have found that prompting an eyewitness to remember more can generate details that are outright false but that feel just as correct to the witness as actual memories.

What is the best way to honor the dead? ›

Here are their ideas on how to honor a loved one:
  1. Keep something of theirs with you. ...
  2. Support a cause close to their heart, and yours. ...
  3. Make a tribute donation to a nonprofit. ...
  4. Create a living reminder. ...
  5. Dedicate an event to their memory. ...
  6. Start a new tradition. ...
  7. Share their stories and photos. ...
  8. Live your best life.
3 Feb 2018

What to do to remember someone who died? ›

Meaningful ways to remember your loved one
  1. Plant a tree or flower. ...
  2. Choose a place to remember them. ...
  3. Create a virtual tribute. ...
  4. Give a gift to help others. ...
  5. Offer ongoing support for their favourite cause.
28 Oct 2021

How do you celebrate a loved one passing? ›

  1. Have a memorial release with balloons or butterflies. ...
  2. Look through old photos with friends and family. ...
  3. Plant a tree, shrub, or flowers and visit it. ...
  4. Donate to their favorite charity. ...
  5. Eat or cook their favorite food. ...
  6. Write them a letter, poem or song.

What color means remembrance? ›

Red represents admiration and love. Pink signifies remembrance. White represents innocence and love.

What is the color of grief? ›

Black – Western World

Wearing dark colours for mourning has long been a tradition in many parts of the western world, in particular large parts of Europe and North America. The association of the colour black with death and loss is centuries old and is believed to have originated during Roman times.

What color represents the dead? ›

Black is seen as a background color for artwork. The color of black represents death in Day of the Dead tradition. Black symbolizes the land of the dead and the pre-Hispanic religions of the people.

What is the power of a candle? ›

Candlepower (abbreviated as cp or CP) is a unit of measurement for luminous intensity. It expresses levels of light intensity relative to the light emitted by a candle of specific size and constituents. The historical candlepower is equal to 0.981 candelas.

What happens when you pray with a candle? ›

The light signifies our prayer, which is offered in faith, entering the light of God. It also shows reverence and our desire to remain present in prayer even as we continue on our day. Burning votive candles are a common sight in most Catholic churches.

What candle Colours mean? ›

Purple candles – Spiritual awareness, wisdom, tranquility. Lavender candles – Intuition, paranormal, peace, healing. Blue and deep blue candles – Meditation, healing, forgiveness, inspiration, fidelity, happiness, and opening lines of communication. Green candles – Money, fertility, luck, abundance, health, success.

What should you not do when lighting a candle? ›

While Burning:
  1. Never leave a candle unattended.
  2. Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire. ...
  3. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets. ...
  4. Never touch or move a candle while it is burning or while the wax is liquefied.
  5. Don't burn a candle all the way down.

Can you pray for the dead to go to heaven? ›

Do Christians think praying can help a dead person get into heaven? Not exactly. All Christians believe that only God can determine whether a person belongs in heaven or in hell. Entreaties on behalf of the deceased can't sway God from what's right, but post-mortem praying does have other uses.

Is it right to pray for the dead? ›

Prayer for the dead is encouraged in the belief that it is helpful for them, although how the prayers of the faithful help the departed is not elucidated. Eastern Orthodox simply believe that tradition teaches that prayers should be made for the dead.

How can a candle represent a person? ›

The next symbol that describes my personality is a candle. Like a candle's flame, I try to brighten a room. I always try to have a positive attitude. Even though I may not talk a lot, I try to help others, similar to how a candle helps people in the dark.

What should you not say at a funeral? ›

Here are seven things to avoid saying at a funeral or to someone grieving the loss of a loved one.
  • “They're an angel now.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “They look so good.”
  • “Don't cry” or “Go ahead and cry.”
  • “At least it wasn't worse.”
  • “God is sovereign.”
  • “Let me know if I can help.”
  • What can you say instead?
24 May 2018

Is it disrespectful to not go to a funeral? ›

Choosing whether to attend is at the discretion of each individual, family member. Whatever you choose, know that it isn't disrespectful to not go to a funeral for personal reasons.

What should you not wear to a funeral? ›

Avoid dressing in casual clothing, such as athletic wear, tank tops, or shorts. Skip the flip-flops, tennis shoes, sneakers, or boat shoes. Remove the neon necktie, purse, or accessory. Shy away from wearing jeans, even black ones, because they are considered too casual for a funeral.

Is a candle an appropriate sympathy gift? ›

Lighting a candle for someone who died is a meaningful tribute. If you're looking for sympathy gift ideas, a candle is a great option. Pairing the candle with a gift basket and message is a thoughtful gesture of support when someone needs it most.

What is the meaning of lighting a candle? ›

Lighting a candle symbolizes bringing light to our wishes or desires. A candle can be lit as a prayer for peace or a request for healing. People of Christian faith believe that lighting a candle symbolizes the light of Christ. Dr.

Why do Catholics light a candle for the dead? ›

Why do we light candles for the dead? Catholics light candles for the dead as an act of remembrance or as a prayer for their souls. They can light candles at any time, however death anniversaries and All Souls Day are particularly popular dates to light candles in prayer for the dead.

What is a good gift for someone who lost a loved one? ›

Chocolates, fruits, nuts and preserved fruits will provide sustenance and comfort. Never underestimate the power of food to give comfort. A Goldbelly gift card will be a welcomed gesture, especially if your gift recipient chooses a meal or treat that reminds them of their loved one that they're mourning.

What is etiquette when someone dies? ›

Refer to the deceased by name. Encourage the family to plan a wake, funeral and burial (even if cremated), if you are in an appropriate position to do so. Send flowers with a note (see suggestions for notes below) or offer a donation to a charity or an appropriate research organization. Acknowledge the deceased's life.

What to make for someone who lost a loved one? ›

Hearty meals like casseroles, slow cooker meals, soups, and stews are ideal. This could include dishes like lasagna, pulled pork, meatballs, macaroni and cheese, chili, or chicken soup. Not everyone is a great cook, but that doesn't mean you can't help a grieving family with sympathy food.

Why lighting a candle is good? ›

Burning candles can greatly help you to fight stress and anxiety. Candles have calming properties. This is twofold, as the flickering light makes you feel calmer as the ambiance is more tranquil, and the particular scent the candle emits also helps to relax you.

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