Giving open flames to kids on Christmas Eve.

Imagine if one night a year, your church held a special service and when you walked in, they gave you a Ninja Throwing Star. That would be a nightmare right? Just throwing stars stuck in hymnals and Bibles and legs as far as the eye could see. It would be a bloody mess. But it’s not that different from what a lot of churches do on Christmas Eve.

My favorite part of this service is when we light the candles and sing a few songs with the lights off. It is honestly a really beautiful experience, but it’s also funny. The other 364 days of the year, parents work diligently to keep their children away from torches. We put covers on our electrical outlets, hide matches and lighters in hard to reach places and yell if they get anywhere near a hot oven. But on Christmas Eve, it’s fire time.

Here are a few ways to multiply the fun of having a lit Christmas candle in a church setting:

1. Blow out other people’s candles.
I don’t think I have to explain this one, but I promise, it is delightful. My brothers and I turned this into an art, because you can’t just come on out and blow it. You have to do this weird, breathe out of the side of your face move in which you send a gust of wind with the accuracy of a sniper at someone else’s candle.

2. Play with the wax.
In addition to melting your candle on the shoes of family members, it’s also fun to see how long you can get the wax without it breaking off. You have to hold it at the right angle though. Tilted enough to make it all pool like one of those stilagtitesdifficulttospellcorrectly things in caves but not so tilted that the weight of the wax breaks it off.

3. Try to keep the candle.
As soon as that last song is finished, it’s like the spell that convinced your parents it was OK for you to have fire in church is broken. And it’s nearly impossible to keep the candle. I never actually executed this move, it’s like the holy grail of candle tricks. There are three people you need to watch out for: Your parents, the ushers and that guy with the box that collects them all at the end. I don’t like that guy. I think all that power went to his head. He didn’t consider himself the “guy with a candle box,” instead he was always kind of smug and seemed to think he was the “gatekeeper of flame.”

Those were my tricks, but I am certain that when it comes to giving kids torches, I have missed quite a few.

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  1. Katie says

    oh fun stuff! my brothers, sister, and i were never allowed to hold one when we were little, but now that we are “mature enough” we can! and we play with them. haha we cause quite a ruckus(which really is only a ruckus to our parents!) it’s sibling bonding :)

  2. Heather says

    Growing up, we moved to the outside walls of the sanctuary to do this. I don’t remember that many problems. Either I’m blocking them from my childhood, or the fact that everyone else could see you made everyone behave.

  3. Nat says

    we did it every yr.
    me and the boys (i was the tomboy at our church) used to swish our fingers through the flames. We learnt pretty early that if you do it fast it doesn't hurt. We'd always try and get one of the girls to do it, without telling her about the fast part 😉 She'd burn herself and yelp right in the middle of the song. Best part was if you got someone who was a classic 'good-kid', or one of the girls doing a solo. hehe

  4. Chessie says

    When I was nine, I attended my first candle-light service. My family sat in the "nosebleed" section of the huge church and I played with my candle the entire service. Scratching the wax off, pushing the candle through the paper ring repeatedly, ect. A few seconds after my candle was lit, hot wax slid down and through the gaping hole that was now the paper ring. It hit my finger and I flung my candle forward, hitting the man in front of me. Luckily he did not catch fire! 11 years later, my candle and paper ring are held hostage from me until lighting time.

  5. oldefashionedgirl says

    Ha ha ha!! I love this service. Once a lady was squeezing past my friend and her hair caught on fire! It wasn't serious, and went out by itself in a second. Fun stuff:)

  6. says

    my church never did this but I have visited those that did. “gatekeeper of flame" hahaha so awesome i think you are right about that guy

  7. Rachel says

    We have a candlelight memorial service every year, and my little girl (who was five at the time) was handed a candle to carry. They have the children carry the candles in. Really sweet, right? Except my daughter has really wispy, fine hair. Just perfect for igniting. Guess what happened…the "spirit" of the evening was broken as I'm screaming "Somebody put out my child's hair!!!"

    We switched to the battery operated ones the next year.

  8. carolinee says

    my family goes to church at the naval academy for christmas eve. my candle was broken about halfway down. the flame was very unsteady. a lady in front of me insisted on clinking candles like glasses during a toast. twas quite the night before christmas…..

  9. says

    In high school, I went to a Christian candle light service, not Christmas Eve. But there was singing and hugging, general closeness. And I hugged someone with my non-candle arm… and lit the back of a man's head on fire. Needless to say I am a college graduate who doesn't light my candle unless I'm going to be standing still.

  10. B says

    I have really long hair (even braided, it reaches my waist), and I am TERRIFIED every year that some kid behind me will tilt his candle in the wrong direction. Considering that we are packed into the pews better than sardines in a can, there is NO room to stop, drop, and roll in that scenario. So every year I have to, once I wake up from the exact same sermon that was preached last Christmas, either pull my hair up into a bun or pull it over my own shoulder so I can faithfully concentrate on numbers 1-3 above. 😉

  11. Inspector Karamazov says

    Last year at christmas eve, I stole a bunch of those candles. And then lit them in my room.

  12. Becky says

    I just listened to this song for the first time. Painful. Too bad, really, since it’s a sweet message.