This time of year the days are shorter and the nights are longer so it’s no wonder that holiday celebrations around the world rely on candles to make them a little brighter. Since it’s Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, we rounded up a few different traditions from across the globe that are sure to light up your night. Scroll down to see what we learned.

photo: Partha Sarathi Sahana via flickr

Worldwide Candle Lighting

Organized by the Compassionate Friends Network, Worldwide Candle Lighting Day takes place every year on Dec. 11 and encourages people around the world to light a candle to honor a child who has passed away. Whether it’s a son or daughter, friend or stranger, grandchild or sibling, you can light a candle to honor lost loved ones. Candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time. This tradition was started in 1997 and has since become a global effort to bring compassionate and love to those who are grieving. Learn more here.


Diwali is an ancient Hindu tradition that takes place in the late autumn in the northern hemisphere, typically in November. In 2016 it was held on Oct. 30.  Also called the Festival of Lights, it is a five day celebration of light over darkness and marks a time for making wishes for the coming year. The night before Diwali the home is cleaned and decorated. On Diwali night, people dress up and light diyas, or lamps and candles, inside and outside the home. Lamps that float are sent out on water with wishes to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Families feast and often exchange gifts. Celebrated widely throughout India, Diwali is also celebrated among Hindus throughout the United States.

photo: hotzeplotz via flickr


Also called The Festival of Lights, the eight candles of the menorah represent the oil that burned for eight days instead of the one it should have. This is the miracle of light, the ability to triumph in the face of adversity and shine against darkness and evil. Each night, one candle is lit and games are played festive food is served. The celebration lasts for 8 days, and usually begins in late November to mid-December. This year it begins on Dec. 24.

photo: Miles Banbery via flickr 

Imbolc, or Brigid’s Day

The old Irish holiday of Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s Day, falls on Feb. 1. Originally named for the Goddess Brigid, also known as Brigit or Brighid, it is also celebrated by Catholics as St. Brigid’s Day and honors St. Brigid of Kildare. The day officially marks the beginning of spring and so candles are lit to represent the sun and longer days that will be ahead. It is one of the four fire festivals in Irish mythology with bonfires lit throughout the countryside. Candles and offerings are made to Brigid, including corn dollies fashioned in her likeness, both at home and in churches.

photo: Mr. TinDC via flickr 

St. Lucia Day

Nordic countries have a long tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice. Today, on Dec. 13, many people in Sweden, Norway and parts of Finland celebrate St. Lucia Day, sometimes called St. Lucy’s Day, a traditional festival of lights. Each town and village chooses a St. Lucia who leads the town’s young girls on a procession. The Lucias are dressed in white with wreaths of lingonberry branches and candles (real candles are used for older kids, while smaller kids may use electric candles) around their heads. Boys dress as star boys, and very young girls will dress like Lucia minus the candles. Gingersnaps are the traditional treat for this day.

photo: Matt Pagel via flickr 


his week long celebration began in 1966-67. It is held over seven days, beginning on Dec. 26 and ending Jan. 1 and honors African American heritage and history. Celebrated throughout the U.S. and other parts of the Americas with music, dance and food shared throughout each of the seven days. The final night culminates in gift giving and a feast. Each day honors one of the seven principles of Kwaanza: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The kinara is the candleholder which holds seven candles, with one being lit in honor of each of these principles. Cakes are a popular means for holding candles and become part of the feast.

What candlelit traditions do you celebrate? Share them with us in the comments below. 

—Amber Guetebier


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