Folk Saying: Prende la Vela


“Prende la Vela”, meaning “light the candle”


The informant came from a partially Hispanic background. He was the keeper in the ofrenda in his house, which was used as a way to remember and pay respect to deceased family members. It was placed on top of his dresser, and had pictures of deceased relatives to represent their souls, a cross, and of course, a candle. Prayers would be said to the ofrenda for the souls. The candle was lit in order to light the path for the souls of the dead to follow, so that they could make their way towards heaven.


This particular saying is somewhat religious in nature, alluding to a Mexican folk tradition with Catholic and pre-Hispanic origins. It also feels like somewhat of a way to teach children and prepare them for the future. It’s a way of introducing them to death and the remembrance of those who have died at an early age. Moreover, it serves as a way to teach children to respect those who have died, and take part in the processes that honor them. The lighting of the candle is a simple action, but it has great connotations which may influence a child as they grow older. Out of context, it could perhaps be a way of saying “remember those who we’ve lost” or “honor those we have lost”.