Holiday Candle Ceremony

For those of you looking for something, a tool, anything that possibly may be instrumental in helping you get through the holiday season, or possibly a way in which you can have your spouse remain a part of the ceremony of the season…this might work, it has for my son and me.

It’s a candle lighting and spoken verse ceremony. As the holiday season approached, it was part of the Memorial Service held by the funeral home for those who had passed away during the year 2001. I was so touched by the verse that I decided right then and there it would be utilized in my household that year and would become a tradition in all the years to follow. I’m not well versed in all the ways the holidays are recognized, but I feel it can be applicable to most any way one recognizes the holidays – Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza and others – even if you don’t recognize the holidays in a religious fashion. Here’s the memorial in its original form (I don’t know the original author, but this has been reprinted without attribution many times).* I adapted it to express the feelings in my heart and will explain the changes I made after the posting of the original verse.

As we light these five candles in memory of and in honor of you, we light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories, one for our love, and one for our hope.

This candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This candle represents our courage – to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, and to change our lives.

This candle is in your memory – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, and the caring and joy you gave to us.

This candle is the light of love. As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us.

And this candle is the light of hope. It reminds us of the love and the memories of you that are ours forever. May the glow of the flame be our source of hopefulness now and forever. We love you.

Sherry L. Williams © 1985

The holiday season officially began the day my son started his holiday break from school. I decided that would be the date we too, would begin the candle lighting ceremony.

Each year I buy special candles and make a special centerpiece for them. My son and I together do the ceremony and I have done it alone if he was not home when I was ready to light the candles (or awake – he's a teenager). I light the candles in the morning leaving them to burn all day, but of course blowing them out if I leave the house and relight them when I return. I say the same words every time the candles are lighted.

There were times when we had visitors when it was time to light the candles, and so I always invited our guests to take part in the ceremony. It pleases me to tell you that everyone who has been asked has eagerly joined us. In fact, they expressed a feeling of honor in being permitted to participate in such a personal family ceremony.

My son and I (or guests) alternate reading the paragraphs/verses and lighting each candle. The candles are lighted as we begin to recite each paragraph.

I added a sixth candle to symbolize my husband, and I make it a different color from the other candles meaning that he stands out among the rest, just as he always did with one rose of a different color when he bought me roses. I wrote a special paragraph/verse for the sixth candle, saying it as the sixth candle is lighted. The personally written words speak to the candle representing my husband, his continued presence in our lives – yesterday, today, and all of our tomorrows. Sometimes when reciting the verse for the sixth candle, whoever is lighting it says what they especially miss that day or they recall a special memory. If you choose to do the sixth candle, you can write and then recite whatever is in your heart.

This ceremony has helped my son and me so very much. It may sound odd to you, but the life of the flame for us is a tangible representation of my husband. And, the flames from these special candles are always so animated as if he were acknowledging that we continue to include him in our holiday traditions in such a visual and physical way.

If you choose to do this ceremony, I hope it works as well for you.

Holding you in prayer and wishing you well in your journey.


Added January 4, 2007

* I am so pleased to finally be able to give attribution to the author of the Holiday Candle Ceremony. I wish to thank Martha Tousley, APRN, BC, FT, Bereavement Counselor, for providing me the following information about the Holiday Candle Ceremony:

“It was originally written by Sherry L. Williams, and it appears in the booklet, Holiday Help: A Guide for Hope and Healing (on page 43) which she co-authored with the wonderful Darcie Sims. The booklet was published by Accord Aftercare Services, 1941 Bishop Lane, Suite 202, Louisville KY 40218, and bears the copyright date of 1996 (original copyright 1985, revised copyright 1992).”

Thank you, Marty, for taking the time to supply me with this missing link. And, thank you Sherry L. Williams for the ceremony. Your words have helped my son and me make it through six (6) holiday seasons with less struggle than we may have otherwise known. I will be forever grateful and I expect many future generations of my family to be comforted by your words.