Italian Family Drama Proverb

Background: My informant is a 52-year-old with Italian heritage. Both his mother and father are from Mola di Bari, a seaside town in Southern Italy. The informant was born in Toronto, Canada and moved to Santa Monica, California at a young age. While he was not born or raised in Italy, the strong Italian roots in his family meant that Italian culture and tradition was still very prevalent in his household. The informant is also my father.

Context: I spoke to the informant while eating dinner with my family and I addressed the topic of folklore to him to see what interesting things he knew about the Italian side of my family.

Main Piece: The informant told me about an Italian proverb that he has heard used in his household which states: “Every family has their own candle to burn”. The informant interprets this as a way of saying that no family is perfect and every family has their own issues to deal with. The informant also mentioned that the candle is quite significant in Italian culture, which is heavily influenced by Catholicism, and that there is deep symbolism of candles in Catholic traditions.

Interpretation: Having never heard this proverb before, I became interested in the symbolic significance of candles in Italian culture that the informant mentioned. After doing a little bit of research I discovered that the burning of candles is used to represent prayer and worship in the Catholic church. After thinking about it, the saying “Every family has their own candle to burn” essentially means that every family has their own problems and conflicts to pray for, as prayers are often used to ask God for aid to relieve a certain conflict or fix a certain problem.