Candles are magical. The Lovely K. and I light candles at dinner most nights, and try to bring someone into our circle of flickering light as we do so – grandma and grandpa, friends far away, soldiers fighting in wars, someone who is sick or facing a difficult challenge. Making the candle’s flame part of a ritual enhances our reverence and our awareness and our gratitude for our meal. It always seemed to me that having this special fire available on a nightly basis made sense, that it would be a way to make fire a familiar member of our family instead of an exotic and dangerous stranger.

I taught K. how to light matches and how to blow out candles without spraying wax on the table.

Her school has a number of traditions that involve the children lighting and carrying candles. These events are beautiful and spiritual, and tell the kids, “We trust you with this special gift.” The children are always careful and make themselves worthy of our trust. When I was a child, we had special candle holders from Germany for the Christmas tree. Each year on Christmas Eve we would turn off the lamps, light these candles and then sit, almost breathless, watching them fill the living room with candle light. This would last ten minutes or so until my parents reached the limit of their nerves and we blew them out. Beauty with danger added magic to the expectation of the night.

Now, in my adult life, I am privileged to know a good and generous woman of Swedish descent who hosts a Santa Lucia party each December at dawn on the saint’s day. The grown-up guests rouse their children from sleep at 5:30, and bundle them into the car in their pajamas. We reach our friend’s house, where the walkway is lined by blocks of ice with candles glowing inside. We are ushered into a darkened living room and given unlit candles. The sleepy children squirm and whisper and are shushed; adults fumble in the dark for seats and give surprised greetings when they discover who is sitting beside them. When everyone is assembled, our hostess waits for quiet and then lights one candle to hold before her. She tells the story of Santa Lucia, who came in a time of famine and darkness and cold in Sweden, with candles on her head to light the way, and her arms filled with food for the hungry people.

The children listen to the legend, hushed. When the story is over, all faces turn to the dark staircase where a faint glow is now visible. Down comes Santa Lucia, in a white dress and red sash, with a beautiful crown of flowers and burning candles balanced on her head.She walks in a circle of golden light. The moment brings goosebumps. The beauty and danger of the fire lights us all to a peak of awareness; we feel gratitude that there is goodness and generosity in the world. We sing the beautiful Santa Lucia song as the flame is passed from candle to candle, filling the room with light. We know the sun will rise in a few more minutes, and we’ll have a Swedish breakfast and sing Christmas carols. In an excited huddle the girls speculate which of them will be chosen next year to wear the white dress and the crown of fire. “I would be too scared!” the younger ones say, or, “I hope I get to do it!” the older ones whisper. Soon we’ll leave the party while the morning is still fresh, our hearts full of courage to face the darkest part of the year.

Please go here for our 5-Minute Courage Workout: Playing With Fire

One thought on “Candlelight

  1. Jewels

    Beautiful.We celebrated our first St. Lucia Day last night and it was lovely.I wondering where you got your crown of light?I made one but it was really kind of flimsy and I think for next year I need to find something a little more secure.


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