My informant said that this is the most recent of ceremonies added to her family’s Christmas Eve celebration. It is called the candle ceremony.
The entire family will stand in a circle, in the living room, in order of oldest to youngest. Each person has a candle, with a little catcher for the wax. The oldest family member begins the ceremony by lighting their candle, in my informant’s family it is her grandfather. After he has lit his candle, he will say what he is thankful for. After he is done saying his piece, he then lights the person’s candle to right of his, the next eldest in the line, and they say what they are thankful for. This continues until every person’s candle is lit, and has said their thanks, then the candles are blown out.
My informant says the ceremony was introduced to the family by her aunt, who she believes learned it from a church function, as they are Catholic.
This ceremony reminds me of a prayer circle, which are common to the Catholic faith. Prayer circles are done often at retreats, or in times of reflection. Candles are a symbol of light, strength, and hope. In the Catholic religion, fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit as well. This ceremony, with the use of candles, and saying thanks on Christmas Eve, definitely emulates hope, strength, and faith for one another.
The fact that the family stands in a circle, and lights each other’s candles, expresses that they are the ones giving you the light, the strength, the ability to go on, and to see. Perhaps too, the fact it starts with the oldest and goes to youngest, symbolizes the passing of wisdom and vitality, a cycle of life.
Her family finds this ceremony to be beautiful and soothing, a time to reflect on one’s blessings and share them with the family as a whole.