“On Christmas Eve, we put candles in our windows. We put them there to signal the warmth of our home, but I know in older times, it was considered a signal of welcome to travelers. It also represented safety and welcome to passing priests and signified to them that they had permission to perform Christmas mass in those homes. You light these candles on Christmas Eve and they are thought to bring good luck if they stay burning until Christmas morning. Usually, the youngest member of an Irish family must light the candle that’s placed in the window by an elder on Christmas Eve. It must be left undisturbed until Christmas morning. Now, for safety measures, we use plastic electronic candles that you plug in and they light up in the dark but go out in the morning, nowadays.”
In Catholic traditions, candles are very symbolic. They represent light, warding off evil, a burning love for God, truth, and welcome. In the 17th century, the Penal Laws made it illegal and dangerous for the Irish to practice their Catholic faith. As a result, many Irish Catholics placed candles in their windows at Christmastime to signify to wandering priests that they were welcome into the home and would be safe to conduct the traditional Catholic Christmas mass. Since the Penal Laws were retracted and now in many parts of the world, religious oppression is long over, a candle in the window of Catholic households is taken to mean that the household is warm and peaceful. It is now one of the most prominent and popular Irish Christmas decorations.