Collector: So you’re originally from Louisiana, right?
Collector: In your high school, were there ever some traditions for seniors?
Informant: Oh, there was! There was a ceremony called the Candlelight Ceremony. And the seniors at the time had, like, a lit candle and the juniors would have a non-lit candle, and the seniors would take their lit candle and light the juniors’ non-lit candle.
Collector: Oh that’s cool!
Informant: Yeah, and Ring Day.
Collector: What’s Ring Day?
Informant: Ring Day was when a senior at the time got their senior ring and put it around their neck, then took the ring and put it on a junior’s neck.
Collector: Do you know how that got started?
Informant: Um, I think they were just looking for a creative way to give people their senior rings.
Collector’s notes: I’ve seen the act of giving class rings in a couple of different situations. A few decades ago, I know that boyfriends would give their girlfriends their class rings as a sort of symbol of their relationship. It linked the two people together and I think this is sort of like that. Similarly with the Candelight Ceremony, the “light” has always been a reputation of love and unity (Stritof). In some ways, this ceremony was a way of the senior passing on their love and approval to the juniors, and they were uniting them as “rising juniors” and “graduating seniors.” It’s as if they belong in the same community for a short while; both considered seniors-but-not-quite.
Because this was a Catholic school, however, the light may have had a simultaneous but different symbol. In the history of the church, fire and the candle have represented Christ, otherwise known as “The True Light” (Horvat). Being given a candle at a baptism, for example, is considered “receiving the light of Christ.” This light is supposed to accompany and strengthen the baby at this liminal point in their life. At baptism, a newborn or convert becomes a member of the church community.
In a more basic way, fire carries its own representation altogether. It can, in some ways, represent the three stages of thought and enlightenment (Horvat). This would be very appropriate in a school setting, especially being given to rising juniors, who are about to start the final year of their child lives. It takes hard work and dedication to create and care for a fire. The long burning wick of the students’ lives is beginning, and the leaving seniors are sharing their knowledge, or “light” with the new senior class.
REFERENCES : Stritof, Sheri. “Candle Symbolism — Candles Represent Love For Many.” About.com. About.com, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
Horvat, Marian T., Ph. D. “Symbolism of Candles, Fire by Marian Horvat.”Tradition in Action. Tradition in Action, Inc., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.