A lit candle sitting on a table


Written by Matt Frazer


Religious and nonreligious people burn funeral candles in remembrance of a loved one who has passed away. In fact, for thousands of years, candles have been used at funerals to symbolize the everlasting spirit.


Funeral candles have many uses. They are currently used during the funeral service itself, in churches, cemeteries, and homes. The bereaved may light a funeral candle in memory of a loved one, to pray for their soul, and to feel more connected to those who are no longer with us on Earth. Here are a few specific uses for funeral candles:


Funeral Candles for Solidarity

The sight of burning votive candles is common in most Catholic churches. The candles are usually placed before statues of saints or at shrines. Lighting a candle is a way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered. The Catholic practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor is said to have its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights.


Candles for Anniversaries

A Yahrzeit, which is Yiddish for “a year’s time,” is the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Every year it is Jewish custom to light a special candle that burns for 24 hours, called a Yahrzeit candle. The funeral candle is lit during the initial mourning period immediately following a death, on the anniversary of the person’s death, and on certain holidays as well.


Funeral Candles for Shrines

A Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico is the Day of the Dead. The holiday, which normally takes place on November 1st and 2nd, focuses on the gathering of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing their favorite foods and beverages. At home, some families built altars or small shrines usually consisting of a Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of the deceased, and many funeral candles.


Personalizing Funeral Candles

Funeral profession surveys have shown that more than 40% of funeral homes have some type of funeral candle present at their services. With the movement toward creating life celebrations and creating unique keepsakes, personalizing the funeral candle to coordinate with the other funeral stationery can make for a more complete life celebration. Not only do personalized funeral candles make an excellent keepsake, they can be created easily in-house by utilizing pre-formatted funeral stationery software designs.


Download Tribute Center for free to create personalized candles and other mementos for the families you serve!