Easter candles, you guys. EASTER CANDLES. We must have them. And really, my family can't imagine missing out completely on the stirringly beautiful beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass, with the fire and the candles and the Exsultet. The whole Easter Vigil is great of course, but I really love the beginning, outside in the chill of the night, warmed by the Easter fire, passing the light of Christ, and the Exsultet which is, in the opinion of this liturgical living expert, the most beautiful prayer of the year.
So, my task of the past few days has been to figure out how to make an Easter Candle at home, sans artistic talent of the drawing/painting variety. I did it. I am amazed at how well they turned out and how very very easy they were and I'm really looking forward to having an Easter Candle as part of our domestic church celebration.
You want one too, right?! Here's how to do it.
Note: Please be careful with candles. They can set things on fire. We never leave our candles burning unsupervised.
- A candle
- White gift wrap tissue paper or kleenex-type facial tissue
- A printer and white printer paper
- Scotch tape and scissors
- Wax paper or parchment paper
- A heat gun or hair dryer
- A design for your candle
- Extra credit: 5 grains of incense or whole cloves to place into the candle at your family Easter Vigil candle lighting!
If you’re more of a visual learner, here's a video tutorial.
Get a candle
According to precepts for liturgical use, a paschal candle “should be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size that it may convey the truth that Christ is the light of the world.” Those of us playing along at home are not bound by these rules, but they are good guidelines. Of course, in circumstances in which we aren’t able to afford and/or obtain a large beeswax candle, any candle will do!
Choose your design and size
The design for an Easter candle is very specific. The main design element must be a cross. It has an Alpha symbol above it and an Omega symbol below it. It must have the year, either below the Omega, or with one digit in each corner of the cross. Then it can have some decorative elements of one's own choosing.
Make something on the computer, hand draw it, or use one of my designs from the shop here.
My set comes with three designs: Red Scroll, Flora, and Celtic. Each design comes formatted for a pillar, a votive, and a taper. Select “print actual size” to get the formatted size. Whatever design you end up using, I suggest printing it out low quality b&w on scratch paper first to check the sizing. Then choose “custom scale” or “percent” to increase or decrease the size of the printed image as needed.
The easiest way to end up with an Easter Candle
Print a pillar size design out in color on a piece of printer paper, wrap it around a glass votive jar candle, trim the excess, tape it down, and be done.
The more complicated but still pretty easy and super cool looking way
Cut a piece of white gift wrap tissue to 8x10.5. Center it on a piece of printer paper SHINY SIDE UP. Carefully tape it down with scotch tape, making sure to cover the corners and at least two inches along the center of each of the four sides. Load it into your printer so that the tissue paper side will get printed on. (Don’t know? Draw an X on one side of a piece of scratch paper, load it X up, and see which side the printing comes out on.) Print your design.
Cut it out
Using your scissors, cut out the design you wish to use, making sure to trim off any tissue paper that would hang over the edge of the candle or overlap. A rectangle shape with white space is fine. If your candle is curved or angled, trim excess tissue paper to get it to lay flat with no overlap.
Place it on the candle
It might take some fiddling to get the lines to match up in the back.
Wrap the candle with the tissue paper layer in a piece of wax paper or parchment paper. Hold it smooth and tight across the candle by grabbing the excess in your fist at the back of the candle. (You might wish to wear a glove or protect your hand with a tea towel or shirt.) Using a heat gun or hair dryer, moving back and forth, melt the candle a tiny bit to allow the tissue paper to soak very slightly into the wax. You’ll be able to see a slight color change. Once one side is set, open the wax paper and adjust the candle to heat another side. You can put the finishing touches on it just laying on the wax paper, and rolling it a bit, rather than holding it. Be careful not to melt the candle too much. Nothing happens, then all of a sudden everything happens.
And that’s it!
If you don’t have access to gift wrap tissue, kleenex type facial tissue works well too. Just separate it to one ply, tape it down to a piece of printer paper, and print and cut and wrap and heat just the same. A kleenex won’t quite fit all the way around a 3 in pillar candle, but it’s pretty close and will work in a pinch!
Once you have your Paschal/Easter Candle made, be sure to use it for a stirring At Home Lucernarium on Holy Saturday night. See the prayer online here (lay people don't say the part in parentheses.) Or see the booklet included in the set with the candle transfers. It features a blessing of an Easter fire and the candle, and the Exsultet. Then the candle can be lit during family prayer time throughout Easter and the whole year, as long as it lasts. As soon as it’s possible, the DIY Easter Candle should be blessed by a priest. If you have access to a priest’s blessing before Easter, you can also ask him to bless the candle before it is used. If you’re able to attend an Easter Vigil Mass, you can still create and use an Easter candle for your home! Before the Easter Vigil next year, this year’s candle should be used, melted, or buried and replaced with a new candle.
This booklet contains an at Home Lucernarium rite for the Vigil of Easter, including a blessing of the Easter fire and paschal candle, and the exsultet. (The liturgy of the Word, the Baptismal liturgy, and the liturgy of the Eucharist are not included).
The Lucernarium is the first of the four parts of the Easter Vigil Mass. It begins 45 minutes to an hour after sunset, to make sure that it’s good and dark. Outside the church, an Easter fire is kindled. The rubrics call for a “blazing fire” (rogus ardens)! The fire is blessed by the priest, and the paschal candle is marked by the priest, and then lit from the fire. The candle is processed into the dark church by the deacon, then members of the congregation light their individual candles from the paschal candle, and then light the candles of others, and so the light of Christ is shared.
Once the paschal candle is in its place on the altar and all are in the church with their individual candles, the lights of the church are turned on and the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation is sung, chanted, or recited before the paschal/Easter candle, ideally by a deacon. In the absence of a deacon, it may be sung by a cantor, with a few sections excluded.
For families unable to attend the Easter Vigil Mass, some of the majesty of this stirring ceremony can be recreated at home. A family lucinarium could begin with an outdoor bonfire, which can be blessed by the head of the household. (This isn’t the same as the blessing of a priest, but is acceptable if a priest is not present.) If that’s not possible, the ceremony can begin inside a darkened house with a presentation and lighting of the family Easter candle, a procession of the candle to its place in the home, and the singing/chanting/recitation of the non-deacon version of the Exsultet.
It's not going to be a usual Easter. I'm going to miss our church and our priests and our friends and THE SACRAMENTS. But at least we will have the light of Christ in our home. And the Exsultet!
If you make an Easter candle, I'd love to see it! If you use the hashtag #catholicallyear it will come up in my feed, or tag me in the post. Or email me at email@example.com with your photo. And have a very happy and holy Holy Week.