What about funeral candles?

The use of fire in the form of torches and candles at funerals is as old a custom as funerals themselves. In many cultures, it unites the mourners, it is a symbol of commemoration and also a celebration of the life that remains.

Ancient cultures lit fires around to body to keep away evil spirits. Early stories of death introduce the idea that lit candles are emblems of purity, joy and heaven, and are used to ban all dark spirits.

In many civilizations, flames are a symbol of Life. They bear hope for the future. The funeral lanterns are lit on the gravestones to perpetuate the memory of those who have left. It is a way to pay tribute.

Funeral candles and memorial candles represent the power of light. The way the flame dances and flickers has been compared by poets to the uncertainty of life. Ceremonial use of fire is found in many religions, here are the ways some religions approach candlelight in funerals.  


Candles play an important role in Judaism. They are lit every Friday evening for Shabbat, for every anniversary and have a central role in Hanukkah. After the passing of a loved one, Jews have to light every year a Yarhzeit candle. Yarhzeit means “time of year” in Yiddish, which is the anniversary of a death. It is a memorial candle that allows the family members to observe the memory of the dead.

Christian funeral

At a Christian funeral, four candles should be placed around the body of the deceased forming a cross. Candles will be lit by the mourners as a sign that the soul of the deceased has left this world and has entered the Kingdom of Heaven where God’s light never faints. It is a prayer for the soul of their lost one and an act of remembrance. Lighting candles is a way of “lighting the path” for the deceased to find his way to a place of peace.


Traditionally, candlelight vigils are not part of the practices in Islam. The Muslims have their own rituals regarding death, funerals and grieving – none of which involve candlelight vigils. Their prophet Muhammed even said, “Do not follow the funeral with fire”. They believe that lighting a candle, lamp or any kind of fire does not reach the dead and does not bring any comfort. As time evolves, however, you will sometimes see candles in a Muslim cemetery and they are not frowned upon.


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