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Instructions for Lighting & Extinguishing Altar Candles

Altar candles are often used in Christian and other religious ceremonies. They are usually lit at the beginning of a specific prayer or point in the service and extinguished to signify the end of that portion of the service or the service itself. When multiple candles are used in a service, they are lit in a specific order. In Christian services, the candles nearest the crucifix or altar are lit first. The person in charge of candle lighting during the ceremony traditionally uses a ceremonial candle lighter to light and subsequently extinguish the candles.


Lighting Altar Candles

Altar candles.

Step 1

Check the candle wicks to make sure that they are long enough to be easily lit once the ceremony begins. 


Step 2

Don any required ceremonial vestments before entering the sanctuary. 


Step 3

Light the candle lighter's taper with a lighter.  Extend the taper's length using the knob on the candle lighter's handle if necessary to produce a brighter or more sustainable flame.


Step 4

Place your left hand near the bottom of the candle lighter's handle, and your right hand near the knob.  Hold the candle lighter centered in front of you and angled forward slightly so that the flame points ahead of you.


Step 5

Enter the sanctuary.  In many Christian ceremonies, acolytes, those in charge of lighting the ceremonial candles, are required to walk reverently and slowly towards the altar and pause for a few moments in front of the crucifix before proceeding to light the candles.


Step 6

Light the candles at the appropriate time in the service, in the appropriate order.  As you light each candle, hold the candle lighter so that it is parallel to the floor and the taper touches the wick.

Keep holding the lit taper to the candle's wick until you are sure it is well lit.  Then move on to the next candle.

If you are lighting candles in tandem with another person, make sure to keep pace with the other person so that you light your respective candles at the same time. 


Step 7

Extinguish the lighting taper once all of the candles are lit by turning the candle lighter's knob and pulling the taper inside the candle lighter's stem. 


Extinguish the Altar Candles


Step 1

Place your left hand near the bottom of the candle lighter's handle, and your right hand near the knob.  Hold the candle lighter centered in front of you and angled forward slightly so that the bell end points ahead of you and the taper end faces you.


Step 2

Approach the altar in the manner described in Step 5 in Section 1 if required. 


Step 3

Extinguish each of the candles in the appropriate order, usually the opposite of the lighting order, at the right time in the ceremony.  Again, keep an eye on your partner if you have one to make sure you extinguish your respective candles in tandem.


Step 4

Exit the sanctuary in the manner in which you entered it. 

Things You Will Need

  • Candle lighter
  • Matches or a lighter

About the Author

Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.

Photo Credits

  • Design Pics/Valueline/Getty Images