TRADITIONS IN SWEDEN
The advent candle custom came to Sweden from Germany as late as in the 1920s. Any holder for four candles will do, and you can fill it with moss and small toadstools. You can also improvise with four separate candlesticks. Light one candle on the First of Advent, the first Sunday in December or at times the last Sunday in November. Let it burn down a little and then light it again on the second Advent together with the second candle and so on.
In Sweden you can also buy tall candles with 24 pre-printed dates. You can make your own with a marker pen.
Colourful Christmas lights are quite a late development in Sweden where white lights still dominate as an outdoors Christmas decoration. The origin of this may well be the advent Christmas tree that the Swedish church introduced around the same time as the Christmas tree was introduced in Sweden in the late 19th century. Each advent the church lit seven candles in the advent tree so that in the end there were 28 burning candles in the pine or juniper tree. Between Sundays the tree was placed outdoors in the snow without any decoration other than the candles and this is probably the inspiration for the way Swedes do their decorating outdoors.
In rural Sweden of the past, special candles were made for each family member at Christmas. The performance of each candle was given much importance because it foretold all kinds of thing. Candle-making has long been a favourite pursuit but this is quite a fussy business. You can take a short-cut by recycling old stumps. Make a small hole in the middle of the bottom of an old soup can and stick a thick wick through it and tie a knot at that end. Straighten the wick out and tie a pin to the other end on top of the can. Melt candle stumps in a double boiler and pour in about two centimeters of the wax into the can at a time. Let cool and continue the process making sure you don’t get any air bubbles in the wax. When the wax has solidified, open the bottom of the can with a can opener and slide the candle out.
(Extracts from the "Nordic Way" web site)
ODE TO A CANDLE
A candle is a simple thing
It starts off with a bit of string
Yet dipped and dipped with patient hand
It gathers wax upon the strand
Until complete and snowy white
It gives at last a lovely light.
My life is like that bit of string.
Each deed I do a simple thing,
Yet day by day if on the strand
I work with patient heart and hand
It gathers joy, makes dark days bright,
And gives at last a lovely light.
You might wonder why there is so much emphasis on Swedish traditions on this page. The answer is, of course, that Inger is Swedish, and that it was in her home country that she learned how to make candles and how to celebrate their meaning for life.......
In Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, Lucy (called Lucia) is venerated on December 13 in a ceremony where a girl is elected to portray Lucia. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucia's life when she was sentenced to be burned. The women sing a Lucia song while entering the room, to the melody of the traditional Neapolitan song Santa Lucia; the Italian lyrics describe the view from Santa Lucia in Naples, the various Scandinavian lyrics are fashioned for the occasion, describing the light with which Lucia overcomes the darkness. Each Scandinavian country has lyrics in their native tongues. After finishing this song, the procession sings Christmas carols or more songs about Lucia.
Votives and Remembrance Candles
It is quite common nowadays in churches of all denominations to have a cluster of votive candles accessible to members of the public who can light one or more of them in connection with a prayer or remembrance. The flame becomes a sign of good faith, concern for somebody who is ill, or simply as a signal that a loved one who has died is not forgotten.........
The "unity candle" ceremony is becoming increasingly popular in marriages all over the world, in many different religions and none. In the ceremony the bride and groom each take a lighted taper and then at the same moment pass the flame across to a larger "unity candle" as a symbol of the marriage union. This is a visually strong and quite charming new tradition........
The Jewish Menorah
One of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith is the menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple. The kohanim lit the menorah in the Sanctuary every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. It has been said that the menorah is a symbol of the nation of Israel and its mission to be "a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6). The sages emphasize that light is not a violent force; Israel is to accomplish its mission by setting an example, not by using force. This idea is highlighted in the vision in Zechariah 4:1-6. Zechariah sees a menorah, and G-d explains: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit."
The lamp stand in today's synagogues, called the ner tamid (lit. the continual lamp; usually translated as the eternal flame), symbolizes the menorah.
The nine-branched menorah used on Chanukah is commonly patterned after this menorah, because Chanukah commemorates the miracle that a day's worth of oil for this menorah lasted eight days.
The menorah in the First and Second Temples had seven branches. After the Temples were destroyed, a tradition developed not to duplicate anything from the Temple and therefore menorah's no longer had seven branches. The use of six-branched menoras became popular, but, in modern times, some rabbis have gone back to the seven-branched menoras, arguing that they are not the same as those used in the Temple because today's are electrified.