The holiday season is nearly upon us and with it arrives a time of togetherness, kindness, light, compassion and gratitude. And although it is often the season of happiness and joy for some it may mark a more complicated time, because it may also remind us of special people we are missing in our lives or loved ones who are no longer among us. No wonder that this period of reflection and contemplation in the final weeks of the year, more than any other, make us more giving, more forgiving and more mindful of others. And we believe that is a beautiful effect.
The ritual of Christmas comes with the tradition of giving and by giving we mean not only the presents under the Christmas tree, but also giving your time and attention to those around you. Above all Christmas is a time of light. Lights in the windows, festive lights in the streets, lights in the Christmas tree, candle lights and the glowing light of a smouldering fire in the fireplace. Maybe that is what helps soften our minds and hearts and allows us to become more mellow and considerate.
Candlelight has been a source of many rituals for thousands of years. At first maybe only as a religious practice but over time it became almost synonymous to celebrations of various sorts. Before you light your Christmas candles, we hope you will find inspiration in these 5 wonderful Festivals of Light celebrations from all over the world. May you light your candles to expel darkness, as an act of remembrance for the people who have passed away, to honour your ancestors or to celebrate special moments in your life. After all, lighting a candle is one of the most profound rituals for the human soul.
India Festival of Lights – Diwali
Diwali is a Hindu Festival that commemorates the Hindu New Year and is usually takes place in October or November all over India. Diwali is short for Deepavali, and literally means: rows of lamps.
During this five-day celebration, which is also called the Festival of Lights, Hindus fill their houses and gardens every night with clay oil lamps or candles to kindle the light of wisdom in every heart, the light of life in every home, and to bring a smile on every face. Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. The rows of lamps lit on Diwali remind us that every aspect of life needs our attention and the start of a new beginning. It also is a welcoming ceremony for Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, into the homes as a sign of gratitude and giving thanks to her for the blessings of the past year. People also hope it will bring good fortune in the new coming year.
India nightly candle ritual – Aarti
Aarti is a Hindu fire ceremony performed by Brahmin disciples to honor the holy river, Gods and deities. Aarti is a true spectacle and every night at 7 pm the holy Ganges river in Varanasi is embraced in hundreds of flickering lights. Varinasi is a place where Hindus aim to visit at least once in a lifetime to participate in many spiritual rituals and to cleanse their sins by bathing in its purifying water. This place is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and is probably the oldest city in India.
The evening ritual is a tightly orchestrated ceremony and includes blowing of conch shells, swaying lamps filled with incense, fire dancing and chanting. Devotees believe that by attending the ceremony purification and blessings will come their way.
The actual beauty of this ritual is witnessed in the form of hundreds of Magnolia votive candles that can be seen floating on the river. Upon releasing these candles pilgrims make a wish. We think our wish would come true if we could watch this ceremony in person.
Thailand Festival of Lights – Loi Krahtong & Yi Peng
In Thailand an almost similar ritual is celebrated with tow different but equally beautiful ceremonies. The Yi Peng and Loy Krathong light festival has its earliest roots in Brahmanic tradition but Buddhists later adopted it. For Buddhists, participating in these acts serves as a moment of reflection and allows people to let go of their personal demons and negativity. The flickering flames and lights symbolize their honouring of Buddha. Many also use this occasion to honor Phra Mae Khongkha, the Hindu water goddess.
The Loi Krathongs, small lotus shaped floating vessels made from banana stalks and decorated with incense, offerings, flowers and candles—are released into rivers and other bodies of water, creating an ethereal sight of serene beauty. The tradition of the floating flickering candles is thought to bring good luck and fulfill a variety of wishes.
In Chiang Mai however the observation of the festival of lights is called Yi Peng and this is uniquely different. Instead of a water vessel, people release thousand of lighted lanterns, called Khom Loi, into the sky while making a wish. The sky transforms itself in a wonderful and surreal sea of little lanterns floating away. The spectacle is mesmerizing and magical. Prior to the big spectacle, the setting is joyful and serene as monks perform chants during an on-stage ceremony.
Japanese Festival of Lights- Obon
Quite similar to Loi Krahtiong is Obon is an annual Buddhist event in Japan. But in Japan it a thousand years old tradition for commemorating one’s ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors’ spirits back home, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples.
At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region but are allover Japan considere as a time of healing, reflection and contemplation.
Obon is observed from the 13th to the 15th day of the 7th month of the year, which is July according to the solar calendar. But since the 7th month of the year roughly coincides with August rather than July according to the formerly used lunar calendar, Obon is still observed in mid August in many regions of Japan, while it is observed in mid July in other regions. The Obon week in mid August is one of Japan’s three major holiday seasons.
Jewish Festival of Lights – Hanukkah
Hanukkah means dedication and is another The Festival of Lights the world has to offer. It is a Jewish festival which begins on the Hebrew date of the 25th of Kislev and lasts eight days, through the 2nd of Tevet. This year 2015 that corresponds to sunset December 6, tthrough sunset December 14.
Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenistic Syrians in a revolt that took place around 165 BC. The victory in itself was considered a miracle, but there is an additional explanation for the Hanukkah ritual. Once the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had been reclaimed, the Temple had to be rededicated. According to legend, only one jar of sacramental oil was found, enough for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, thus the eight days of Hanukkah.
The most important Hanukkah ritual is the candle lighting. Jewish people light candles in a special candleholder called a menorah or a hanukkiah. Each night, one more candle is added. The middle candle, called the shamash, is used to light each of the other candles and it is lit every night. Therefore, on the first night of Hanukkah, two candles are lit (the shamash and the candle for the first night) and on the last night, there are nine lit candles.
Create your own festival of lights at home and start a new annual ritual with our selection of wonderfully SCENTED CANDLES. May you find peace of mind and soften you soul.