Celebrated all around the world, Christmas is the time of lights, love and joy. In many regions and cultures, four candles are lit along with an advent wreath.

The candle ritual starts four Sundays before Christmas. Each Sunday, one particular candle is lit, and every candle signifies a different virtue. Christians begin to celebrate the birth of Christ 4 weeks before Christmas day. Some cultures also have a fifth candle, lit on Christmas, which signifies the light Christ brings to the world.

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The tradition of lighting candles during the Christmas season has been around for centuries. The reason isn’t just one, and lighting candles is a practice that comes from various beliefs. In medieval days, candles were lit as a sign of welcoming tired travelers for food or shelter. In the Middle Ages, a large candle was lit to represent the star of Bethlehem, Christ’s birthplace. Candles were also used to decorate Christmas trees back when electrical lights weren’t invented.

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Colonially oppressed Irish priests would go underground with lit candles to worship in secret.  In modern times, some place candles on their window sills for a loved one who has passed away, as a sign of remembrance.

Advent is widely popular in Catholic faith. The churches are decorated with lush green decorations, including advent wreaths. The evergreens signify the everlasting love and immortality of Christ. Four candles are placed around a wreath, mostly in purple and pink colour. Purple signifies penance, sacrifice and a time to pray. Each candle represents the weeks of advent and is lit each Sunday.

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The first candle signifies the hope and anticipation of the coming of Christ. The second represents faith and is often called Bethlehem’s candle. The third is a pink one representing joy. Finally, the fourth candle celebrates Christmas.

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The significance and colours of the candles mean different things to people of different faiths, but mostly, illumination, love and light are the essence of this practice.