Paschal candle decorations transform a simple white pillar candle into a beautiful religious candle rich with symbolism representing the Light of Christ and the resurrection.
Also known as Easter candles or Christ candles, paschal candles are an important part of the fifty day Easter season celebration of many Christian religions throughout the world. Examples of these religions include:
- Roman Catholic
Paschal Candle Decorations
Although the actual services, celebrations and traditions of each of the religions are different, one thing that remains constant throughout all of the religions is the symbolic meanings of paschal candles. In addition, if you compare the Easter candles of two different religions they may appear to be somewhat different looking, yet the basic symbols and decorations will be the same. This holds true whether you look at a six inch tall paschal pillar candle decorated at home with carvings and paint or a 36-inch long paschal church candle adorned with symbols.
The decorations on a paschal candle include:
- A cross
- The letter for alpha
- The letter for omega
- The year
- Optional decorations signifying redemption or renewal
The symbol of a centrally located cross signifies that the candle is a paschal, or Christ, candle. The cross and the flame of the candle are symbols that the flame still burns despite the pain and suffering Christ endured on the cross.
Paschal candles often have five nails, one placed in the center and one placed at each of the four ends, symbolizing the wounds Jesus suffered on the cross. Incense is generally placed into each of the nails. If you are making a paschal candle for your home, instead of nails many people use whole cloves, thumb tacks, straight pins or upholstery nails.
The Letters for Alpha and Omega
The Greek letters that begin and end alphabet are alpha and omega. On the paschal candle these letters symbolize that:
- God is the beginning of all things
- God is the end of all things
- From the very beginning of time and creation to the very end of time God is always present
- From the very beginning of time and creation to the very end of time the Word of God is always present
The year symbolizes that:
- God is not just there at the beginning and end of time
- God is always present at all times and has been present throughout all time and all history
- God is with everyone that is currently gathered near the paschal candle
Optional decorations that symbolize redemption or renewal are often placed around the upper and/or lower sections of the candle. Examples of these decorations include:
- Grapevines and grapes
- A pelican feeding her babies
- Wheat and grapes
- A lamb with a banner of victory
- A phoenix rising out of the ashes
The Position of the Symbols
The following are the most common placement of the decorations on a paschal candle as you are facing the candle:
- The alpha sign is located in the top left quadrant of the cross
- The omega sign is located in the top right quadrant of the cross
- The first two numerals of the year are located in the bottom left quadrant of the cross
- The second two numerals of the year are located in the bottom right quadrant of the cross
Another common placement is placing the four numerals of the year in the four quadrants of the cross with the:
- The first numeral in the top left quadrant
- The second numeral in the top right
- The third numeral in the bottom left quadrant
- The fourth numeral kin the bottom right quadrant
With this design the alpha symbol is centered above the cross and the omega symbol is centered below the cross.
Paschal Candle Resources and Images
- A Paschal candle kit from Holy Heros includes everything needed to make a beautiful eight inch Easter candle.
After the Easter Season
Generally made of at least fifty-one percent beeswax, the paschal candle remains in its place in the front of the church throughout the Easter season and is lit for all services. Once the fifty day Easter season ends, on Pentecost, the candle is moved to its position by the baptismal font and is lit for all baptisms. It is also lit for all funeral services and is placed next to the casket at those times. In both baptism and funeral services the significance of the paschal candle decorations remain the same as they were during the Easter season. They are symbols that God is always present with you from the beginning to the end.