When to Light a Yahrzeit Candle, According to Tradition

Published February 16, 2021
Jewish Yahrzeit Candle

Knowing when to light a yahrzeit candle is vital to the custom of observing the anniversary of a deceased loved one. There are a few guidelines you'll want to follow that include where to light this memorial candle.

Tradition for When to Light Yahrzeit Candle

The yahrzeit candle is lit on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. It is often referred to as a soul candle or anniversary candle. There are many religious nuances associated with candles. The most significant is that it represents the human soul.

Why Are Candles Lit?

Traditionally, the human soul is symbolized by the candle flame. This makes the lighting of the yahrzeit candle an even more powerful observance. The candle is often used as a metaphor for the human soul. The candle and the flame are also commonly used as a metaphor of the human soul's connection with God. The fire (God's Light) gives life to the candle (human soul). The Torah frequently references similar metaphors and various candle symbolism for the human soul.

What Time Do You Light a Yahrzeit Candle?

You will light your yahrzeit candle at sundown. It is important that you use a Hebrew calendar for determining the anniversary day, since Hebrew days always begin at sundown. However, it is permitted to use a secular calendar for determining the death anniversary if you so choose.

Light Only One Yahrzeit Per Household

Usually, only one yahrzeit candle is lit for the household. However, it is permissible for family members to each light a candle if they prefer.

Anni Venturas' Yahrzeit candle

How Long Should a Yahrzeit Candle Burn?

The Yahrzeit candle is designed to burn for 24 hours. You should allow the candle to self-extinguish by burning itself out. (Never leave a burning candle unattended.) Some families opt for an electric yahrzeit lamp instead of a candle.

Where Should You Light a Yahrzeit Candle?

Traditionally, you will light the yahrzeit candle in your homes. However, there are some traditions that prefer the candle be lit at the grave of the deceased.

Is a Yahrzeit Candle Burned for Other Jewish Days?

A yahrzeit candle is also burned for Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, Shavuot, and the final day of Pesach. The larger yahrzeit is lit during the shiva, so it will burn throughout the seven days. Some of the Jewish faith use more than one yahrzeit candle to provide enough yahrzeit burn time for religious holidays.

memorial yahrzeit candles

Religious Days and Holiday You Can't Light Candles

You will need to observe other Jewish laws during this time. For example, Jewish law prohibits any lighting of flames on the Shabbat. So, you will need to observe this law when planning your memorial candle lighting and remembrance. Should the death anniversary fall on the Sabbat, you can purchase a 48-hour burning yahrzeit. This means you'll light the candle 24 hours earlier than the anniversary and allow it to burn for 48 hours instead of the typical 24 hours.

For Which Family Members Do You Light a Yahrzeit Candle?

Traditionally, you will light a yahrzeit candle for immediate family members, such as a spouse, children, parents, and siblings. However, there is no Jewish law that prevents you from lighting a yahrzeit for anyone else you may wish to honor with this sacred remembrance.

Best Time When to Light a Yahrzeit Candle

There are just a few rules for lighting a yahrzeit candle. However, you want to understand them to ensure your memorial candle burning is successful.

When to Light a Yahrzeit Candle, According to Tradition