Table of contents
Worldwide Candle Lighting Day is celebrated the second Sunday of every December. Although the day is recognized during the most festive of holiday seasons, Worldwide Candle Lighting Day has nothing to do with traditional religious and cultural Christmas celebrations. Worldwide Candle Lighting Day is a virtual 24-hour global candle lighting ceremony symbolizing compassionate support for each other by families grieving the loss of a child. Believed to be the world’s largest candle lighting ceremony, the day unites those who remember the children who have passed on.
History of Worldwide Candle Lighting Day
When a child departs this life early, the grief can be overwhelming on a level unequaled by any other human tragedy.
There is no magic formula to mend the broken heart, fill the void, and process the devastating sadness in the wake of a child’s death. Regardless of the child’s age and whether the death was sudden or expected, the journey through grief that parents, grandparents, and siblings must endure when a child’s life is taken away is a difficult road to travel. Those who embark on this journey often feel alone and isolated.
In May of 1968 the Reverend Simon Stephens, a chaplain at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital in England, recognized a unique opportunity to bring two sets of grieving parents together whose sons each lay dying in the same hospital. Reverend Stephens hoped that the parents, Joe and Iris Lawley, whose son Kenneth was killed in a traffic accident, and Bill and Joan Henderson, whose son Billy died from cancer, might find solace and comfort by sharing their stories and grieving for and with each other.
The comfort and support that the Lawleys and Hendersons experienced by sharing the common grief of losing a son was a healing balm they wanted to share with other parents mourning the loss of a child. Reverend Stephens facilitated their meeting with other bereaved parents whom he had consoled at the hospital, and in January 1969, The Compassionate Friends organization was formed.
In 1997 The Compassionate Friends of the United States began Worldwide Candle Lighting Day as an annual gift of compassionate support to unite the families of the sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and grandchildren who departed this earth too soon. The first ceremony was a small internet event that has since grown to include thousands of formal and informal gatherings all around the world.
Today, hundreds of Worldwide Candle Lighting Day gatherings are supported by local churches, funeral homes, hospitals, hospices, schools, cemeteries, memorial gardens, and community centers. In 2019 The Compassionate Friends added a virtual Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Wall where family members could share a memorial message in honor and memory of their child, grandchild, or sibling.
Worldwide Candle Lighting Day timeline
The first Worldwide Candle Lighting Day is organized by The Compassionate Friends in the United States and held as an online ceremony.
The Compassionate Friends chapter is incorporated in the United States.
Founders of The Compassionate Friends meet for the first time at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital in the U.K.
Reverend Simon Stephens introduces Joe and Iris Lawley to Bill and Joan Henderson, whose sons both died in May 1968.
How to Support Grieving Families on Worldwide Candle Lighting Day
Tell them about The Compassionate Friends
Make the effort today to locate the closest chapter of The Compassionate Friends. Provide the chapter’s contact information to the family in a personal, handwritten note expressing condolences for their loss. A handwritten note is more intimate and appropriate when someone has experienced the passing of a child.
Promote Worldwide Candle Lighting Day
Social media has become a primary way for families, friends, neighbors, and individuals to communicate special needs and events in the community. One month before the second Sunday in December is prime time to begin posting about Worldwide Candle Lighting Day in your social media. Include a link to the event website. If you are participating in the event, let others know.
Participate in a Worldwide Candle Lighting Day ceremony
Mark your calendar to set aside time to remember and honor the children, grandchildren, or siblings you or others have said goodbye to in recent years. You can light a candle yourself at 7:00 P.M. local time or join with others at a local ceremony. If there is not a local gathering near you, contact the nearest The Compassionate Friends to learn how to start one in your community. You will be providing a lasting gift to others in your local community.
5 Ways Candle Light Comforts Grieving Hearts
Candle lighting is an expression of faith
Most organized religions and spiritual practices incorporate candle lighting in ceremonies and rituals honoring the deceased. Lighting a candle in remembrance of a child reaffirms our personal faith in life after death and our hope for reuniting with departed loved ones in the hereafter.
Candle lighting soothes the soul
The simple act of lighting a candle creates a moment of stillness as we tune out the cacophony of the world and focus on the soft illumination of a candle’s flame. Turning off the world welcomes inner peace to enter in times of stress.
Candles lift our prayers to heaven
There is a traditional belief that the smoke from a lit candle lifts our prayers through the heavens to the very heart of the Creator.
Candlelight promotes serenity
The light of a single flickering candle flame creates an environment of calm and tranquility that fills a room with quiet hope and puts the heart at rest.
Lighting a candle confirms intention in meditation
Candles serve as the focal point of concentration and visualization in many meditative traditions. The experience of lighting a candle in remembrance of a child is a ritual that many find helpful as they focus on the beauty of a departed child’s spirit.
Why Worldwide Candle Lighting Day is Important
Meets an unmet need
Only the parent who has lost a child can comprehend and identify with the pain of another parent’s loss. Bringing grieving parents, grandparents, and siblings together for mutual support and comfort is a priceless gift that cannot be duplicated in other ways.
Starts a conversation about life and death
Death is the part of the life cycle that makes many adults uncomfortable. The lack of open dialog about end of life often makes it difficult for us to know how to respond when someone we know experiences the death of a young family member. National Candle Lighting Day can be a conversation starter on this sensitive, often confusing and difficult subject matter, making it easier to lend support to those experiencing this heartbreak.
Offers a sense of community to the grieving
Worldwide Candle Lighting Day helps to light the way for healing by bringing those who grieve alone together with others on a similar journey. Just knowing someone else understands your heartache brings comfort and peace to a hurting heart.
Worldwide Candle Lighting Day dates