Meaning of a Candlelight Service

Candles for a candlelight service

The meaning of a candlelight service can vary, depending on the person or group who is organizing the service itself, the time of year, and several other factors.

What Is a Candlelight Service?

Candlelight services are generally held at night, and are intended to be a way for groups of people, large or small, to quietly reflect, pray together, or simply show support for one another. There are many reasons why a candlelight service might be appropriate, including:

  • Remembering someone who has died
  • Marking a significant anniversary of an important event
  • For Christmas Eve prayer and carol singing
  • To raise awareness for a cause
  • To organize a large group to pray for a specific reason
  • To gather survivors of a disaster, war, tragedy, or disease to pray and remember those who were lost
  • As part of a funeral service
  • For other religious holidays or to take communion

Finding the Meaning of a Candlelight Service

The meaning of a candlelight service is different for everyone. When candles are lit, one by one, it is symbolic of spreading a message or support from one person to another. In this regard, it's easy to see how groups with a message, such as religious groups or those with a specific cause, could use a candlelight service to spread their message.Candlelight services are also calming by nature. Surrounded by darkness and the glowing of candles, people have the opportunity to reflect on the reason for the gathering.

What to Expect at a Candlelight Service

Depending on where and why the service is being held, there are some standard things that usually occur during a candlelight service.

Religious Candlelight Services

When the service is based in religion, it is almost always held inside, or just outside, a church or other religious establishment. Candles are handed out to parishioners as they arrive, and are lit by passing the flame along the rows of pews, from one person to the next. Some things that normally happen at a church-based candlelight service are:

  • Bible readings
  • Singing hymns
  • Prayer
  • Communion
  • Sermons

Other Types of Services

Any candlelight service can involve prayers, even those not based on religious contexts. Often, however, organizers try to keep this type of gathering as non-denominational as possible, to help everyone feel included.A candlelight service for the purpose of remembering people or events, for example, could include:

  • Speeches from family or friends, survivors, or experts
  • A moment of silence for reflection and remembrance
  • Poetry or other readings
  • Songs and music
  • Time to share experiences with others, either in front of the group or individually

There really is no set formula for a candlelight service, as they can be molded and changed to fit the situation and the people attending. Of course, the one thing all candlelight services have in common is the lighting of the candles themselves.

Candles for a Candlelight Service

Almost any type of candle can be used at a candlelight service, such as taper candles, votives, or even tea lights. With smaller candles or those that risk dripping hot wax, a small candle base with a bowl-shaped disk at the bottom can be provided to protect the hands.

The most common color for these candles is white, though you'll often see red candles for advent, or colored candles for certain causes. For example, to raise awareness for breast cancer, pink candles could be used, since pink is the color associated with fighting the disease.

For small group services, such as those for a funeral, the candles can be personalized with the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased.


The true meaning of a candlelight service really depends on those who are attending, and what the organizers have planned. Whether it's to pray and focus on religious teachings, or to remember a person or event, a candlelight service is a calming, serene way to bring groups of people together for a common cause.

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Meaning of a Candlelight Service