the beauty of a flame…

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17/10/2010 by Sarah Ritchie

Hanukkiot Old City Jerusalem

Hanukkiot, Old City, Jerusalem

Picture yourself soaking in a bath surrounded by lighted candles. How do you feel? Relaxed…soothed…pampered? It is – essentially – just your regular bath, surrounded by lights, so what is it about candles that we find so special? We give them as presents – not to offer the recipient light, but to give them a beautiful gift. At what stage did candles move from being an object of viewing necessity to an object of admiration?

The pleasure cannot merely be based on what the body of the candle looks like – as even the humble tealight candle can bring joy; but rather the flame itself – the flickering, dancing light that moves without orchestration and imparts a warm, welcoming glow.

A candle is like a mini version of the family fireplace (or even a bonfire) that not only warms us, but gives us a moving painting. I could watch the flames for an age.

Once a year, in the middle of winter, the Jewish culture celebrates Hannukah – the festival of lights. I was fortunate enough to be in Israel during Hannukah and could watch the 8-day celebration unfold. The main city streets were strung with fairy lights and almost every Orthodox Jewish home had a Hannukiah (nine branch candlestick) burning in its window. Every night, for the eight nights of the festival, one more candle is lit on the candlestick.

Simon and I took a guided walking trip through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (in Jerusalem) on one of the final days of Hannukah…and the sight was truly stunning! We were told that families would put out one Hannukiah for every child in the family. As you can see – in the photo – this family would have had nine children! Try to imagine the beauty of walking down narrow, ancient cobblestone streets with literally hundreds of 9-branch candlesticks alight. I have never seen anything comparable!

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