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10 Powerful Symbolic Meanings of Candles

For centuries, candles have been a source of light, pushing away the dark and bringing a cozy feeling. But there’s more to candles than just light. They play an important role in our special moments, parties, and daily life. Let’s explore the varied meanings these simple wax and wick creations hold.

1. The Essence of Life

person holding a candle

The flame of a candle is like a reminder of how short and delicate life can be. Candles also need air to keep burning, just like we need air to breathe and stay alive. The wax and wick work in harmony to maintain the flame, much as the body and soul do to sustain life.

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When you watch the flame move and dance, it’s like seeing life’s ups and downs. It’s beautiful fragile, and temporary, just like moments in our lives.

2. Spirituality and Divine Connection

Colourful candles

Candles are spiritual tools, used in churches, temples, and sacred spaces around the world. In many religious ceremonies, they symbolize the divine light guiding us through life’s journey. Their glow is a beacon of hope, illuminating the path of righteousness.

Lighting a candle can mark the beginning of a prayer or meditation session, signaling a special, sacred time. The act of lighting a candle can be a prayer in itself, a silent wish or intention set alight. We tend to light candles when honoring the dead, wishing for the wellbeing of loved ones who are sick, or to pray for the safety of a traveler. Regardless of spiritual or religious beliefs, candles have always held a sense of the sacred and the grave.

3. Marking Celebrations

Girl Smiling in Front of a Cake

Candles have played a significant role in commemorating memorable events. One ancient tradition that continues today is the placing of candles on birthday cakes. Every lit candle on the cake symbolizes a year lived, and the act of blowing them out is a reflection of our desires and hopes for the future.

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Similarly, anniversaries, whether celebrated over a romantic meal or in remembrance of someone dear, often include candles. Their soft glow brings a hint of depth and contemplation, making these moments even more profound and memorable.

4. Symbols of Remembrance

In loving Remembrance Candle
Candle for memorial days as a symbol of remembrance. See it here.

The soft glow of a candle can represent a life, making them a symbol of remembrance. In vigils and memorial services, candles are lit to honor the memory of those who’ve passed. The gentle light serves as a comforting reminder that while physical presence may fade, the spirit endures.

5. Hope and Enlightenment

Candle on Table in Green Plant Decorations

Candles are a symbol of hope. Long before electric lights were invented, people depended on candles to navigate through darkness. Over time, this practical role took on a deeper symbolic meaning, with candles embodying hope and providing guidance in tough times.

The significance of candles extends beyond just lighting up the darkness; they’re also seen as symbols of enlightenment. By casting away the figurative shadows of ignorance, candles can bring wisdom and understanding into our lives.

6. Unity and Community

Person Holding White Taper Candle

When many candles are lit together, it’s a powerful sight. For example, at a candlelight vigil, people gather, each with their candle, for a common purpose. When all those separate flames come together, they make a brighter and stronger light. However, this isn’t just about the light.

Lighting candles in group events or ceremonies shows teamwork and togetherness. It’s a way of saying that everyone is united and supporting one another, strengthening the sense of community.

7. Romance and Intimacy

Man and Woman Sitting on Chair

Candlelight adds something special to romantic dinners. The gentle light from candles sets a close, private mood, which can feel very different from our usual bright lights. This dim glow makes everything feel a bit magical, turning ordinary moments into unforgettable memories.

On top of that, candles do more than just light up a room; they have a warmth that reminds us of close connections, love, and the special bond between people. So, when you see candles burning during a dinner, know it’s not just for the light but also to create an atmosphere full of warmth and deep connections.

8. Transformation and Renewal

Tealight on a Himalayan Salt Candle Holder

As a candle burns, it undergoes a transformation from solid to liquid to gas. This metamorphosis can be compared to the different phases in our lives, reminding us of the impermanent and ever-changing nature of existence. This symbolizes change, evolution, and the cyclical nature of life.

9. Protection

Protection Intention Candle With Crystals And Herbs
Candle With Crystals And Herbs. See it here.

In the past, candles were used to protect a person from the darkness. They were literally the source of light at night. As light and darkness have always held the dual meanings of good and evil respectively, candles became symbolic of protection against evil forces and misfortune.

10. Knowledge and Truth

Beeswax candles
Candles represent knowledge and truth. See it here.

Another meaning of light is knowledge and truth. Like a light that burns in the dark, knowledge and truth often fights against ignorance and deception. In this way, candles represent knowledge and truth and the fight against mistruths.

The History and Origin of Candles


The very first kind of candles weren’t exactly like what we have today. Around 3000 B.C., the Egyptians made torch-like lights by dipping the center of reeds into melted animal fat. The Romans then took a step further by introducing wicks, dipping paper-like rolls into melted fats to create better candles that were often used in religious events and to light up homes.

In the Middle Ages, beeswax candles became the favorite, especially in churches, because they burned clearer and smelled nicer. But they were pricey, and were mostly bought by rich people and churches, leaving the rest with the older style made from animal fat.

In the 18th century, new candles made from sperm whale oil came into the picture, offering brighter and less smelly light. The 19th century saw even more advancements. There were improvements in the type of waxes used, better wicks, and factories started producing lots of candles.

But as kerosene lamps and then electric lights were invented, candles were no longer the main source of light. Yet, they made a comeback later on, not for the light they gave but for their decorative appeal, their role in ceremonies, and the calming mood they set.

Today, there are various kinds of candles made from materials like paraffin, soy, and beeswax. They’re used for many reasons – from setting a relaxing atmosphere to celebrating festivals, but not so much for light. Many people also enjoy making their own candles, experimenting with different shapes, colors, and smells.

Wrapping Up

Candles are more than just sources of light. They carry deep meanings, from hope and love to peace and remembrance. When we light a candle, it connects us to these powerful symbols, making ordinary moments feel special.

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Affiliate Disclosures

Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.