Candles (Lambathes) are an important part of the Greek Easter service that takes place on Holy Saturday. Just before midnight, the church gets quiet and all the lights are turned off.
Abruptly, the parish explodes in candlelight, and the people sing the traditional song, Christos Anesti, or, “Christ has risen.” The candles are lit at the precise moment when Jesus rose from the dead.
Sure, the churches do provide enough lambatha candles for everyone who attends the service. However, these candles are rather plain.
The truth is, the candles can be decorated any way you wish! Here are some tips that will help you choose a great lambatha candle for you to take with you during the Easter service:
Greek Easter candles can be decorated any way you want! Young children enjoy having candles decorated with their favourite toys. Older children love holding candles in their favourite colours.
Holding decorated candles is a great way to keep kids engaged with the church service. It’s not just children who enjoy these personalized Easter candles – adults like them too! It’s all about finding ways to express yourself and make the church service a little more interesting.
Make the Candles Yourself
In order to make sure you really get the candle that you want, you can try making it yourself! You can wind the candle with brightly coloured ribbons, add sparkles and jewels, and even attach jewellery or some small toys to the candle! If you want to decorate the whole thing, just make sure that you leave enough room at the top for it to burn for a long time at the church service. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep watching it to make sure that your decorations don’t start burning.
Check the Burning Time
No matter how your candle is decorated, you need to make sure it has a long burning time. This is especially important if you decide to decorate the candle yourself. Typically, the candle stays lit for the entire church service, which could last a few hours after the candles are lit, depending on the church. After that, it is the tradition to take the candles home while they are still lit and say a few prayers. In fact, many families take the candles home to say a few prayers and then keep them lit until they burn out naturally.
Give the Candles as a Gift
In some families, it is a tradition for the Godparents to buy their Godchildren a decorated Easter candle. If this is the case, they may ask you what kind of decorations will be best. If you know that the Godparents aren’t going to give their Godchildren a decorated candle, other family members can give it to them, instead, This is considered a nice gesture but it isn’t necessarily a set tradition that all Godparents need to adhere to.
Bringing decorated Lambatha Candles to church on Holy Saturday is a custom that a lot of Greeks throughout the world follow. It’s important to find the right decorations for your personality.
Lighting Candles During Holy Saturday Service
During the service, the church goes completely dark and everything is quiet. Eventually, the priest lights the first candle. Soon, the church is illuminated with the light of everyone’s candles. The candles remain lit during the remainder of the service. If the candle burns out, it is quickly relit during the service. The ultimate goal is to keep the candle lit for as long as possible.
Taking the Lit Candle Home
Inevitably, those that attend the service always come home with their lit candles. It is so important that the candle remains lit. This is part of the tradition, but the candle flame that is lit during the special Holy Saturday service is something that is said to be extra special because it symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. This can get tense because it is difficult transporting a lit candle in a moving vehicle. If you are walking home it can be even harder because there is always a risk that the wind will blow it out.
Blessing the Home with the Candle
Upon returning home, they then walk around their homes, both inside and out, saying “Christos Anesti”, which means “Christ is Risen”. They may also sing the Christos Anesti hymn. They make sure to cover every part of the house, as well as the main areas outside. The details of how a home is blessed vary from family to family. Some only bless the doorways, others walk around with the candle in order to cover a larger area.
Jesus is the Light of the World
Orthodox Christians look at candles as being the Light of God or the Light of Christ. There is a verse in the Bible that states:
- Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”. – John 8:12
This is the core behind why there are so many candles in the Greek Orthodox Church. The Holy Saturday service makes particular use of candles in a beautiful way. During this service, they not only embody Christ but also his Resurrection and the sacrifice he made for us.
The next time you attend this service, you won’t want to miss out on the chance to bless your home with the candle. It offers a way for us to connect with God during such a holy day.