Turnip Candle Holder (Ireland)
There are many Christmas traditions that are shared across cultures, such as cooking special dishes, eating, fellowshipping with family and friends, singing and attending worship. Some, such as the tradition of placing a candle in a window have grown out of very different circumstances than we often realize.
Many people believe placing a candle in the window symbolizes the readiness to provide lodging for the weary Holy Family if they had been there on that blessed night. However, the tradition seems to trace back to Ireland. Under the oppressive British rule, Irish Catholics were persecuted, especially in the 1600s. At Christmastime, Catholics would light a candle in the window and leave their door unlocked so that priests could come in and say Mass. When questioned by the British as to the purpose of the candles, they would tell them that they were welcoming the Holy Family during Christmas time. The candle eventually came to signify that weary travelers were welcome to find shelter and food in the home. Thus, it became a symbol of hope-- hope for weary strangers who may need lodging, and hope that Mary and other saints would pass by and bless the home. Irish immigrants brought the tradition with them to the United States.
Root crops were common part of the Irish family's livelihood, so turnips were often used in lieu of a more traditional wooden candle holder.
Making your own Turnip Candle Holder is easy
Candle, taper or votive
Remove a votive candle from its metal case, turn it upside down and press it against the top of the turnip and press it down into the flesh of the turnip to create a template for your candle hole.
Using the melon baller, carve out enough flesh for the votive to sit flush with the turnip's surface. Place the votive inside-- without the metal casing.
Light your candle and place it the window to recreate an old Irish tradition.