What Is a Votive Candle? Small Accents That Make an Impact

Published May 5, 2021
two votive candles

A votive candle is the next size up from a tealight. It is often called a prayer candle and is used in churches and homes.

Description of a Votive Candle

The votive candle is typically 2" tall and 1.5" in diameter. The bottom of the candle is narrower than the top. You may have seen votives that look like a wax bell is sitting on top of the candle, or the candle has a dome-shaped top. These shapes are designed to allow the candle to burn more evenly and a little longer than a flat-topped tealight.

The average burn time for this candle is between 10-18 hours. However, some candles have a shorter burn time, depending on the type of wax, wick, and whether the candle is scented or unscented. Votive candles are designed to melt and burn up all the wax completely. However, you may find the candle self-extinguishes before all the wax has been burned.

A votive candle is designed to fit into a votive candle holder or a decorative candle lantern. The most common votive candle holder is glass, although you can find ones made of ceramic and even metal.

Type of Candle Wax

Votive candles are made of various waxes, such as beeswax, paraffin, soy, palm, and any number of blended waxes. Votives are also available in scented and unscented.

Where to Use a Votive

There are many ways to use a votive candle. They are a popular choice for home use when you want to add a touch of ambience. You may decide to place one in a candle lantern on your patio for a touch of night glow while you enjoy the evening outside. Scented votive candles offer a pleasant aroma to your bedroom, home office, bathroom, or living room. Restaurants often use a votive on the tables for a touch of romance. This size candle is an ideal choice for wedding receptions. They are also used in various arrangements for dinner parties and other social gatherings.

Votives for Prayer Candles

Votive prayer candles are often white and made of paraffin or soy. Some churches use beeswax since this wax is known to have a longer burn time than most candle waxes. Beeswax is also a traditional prayer candle of antiquity.

When votives are used as prayer candles in a church, they are grouped together in a rack or stand. These candles are contained in clear or colored glass holders. You'll find this type of prayer candle groupings in Catholic churches as well as other denominations. A single candle or group of candles are often placed in front of a statue, such as the Virgin Mary or the statue of a saint. Some churches have niches for saints, and they are decorated, and a candle placed in front of the statue on certain religious holidays.

woman lighting candles

Votive Meaning

It isn't a coincidence that the votive candle is also a prayer candle. The word votive means a vow, desire, or intention. When a votive candle is lit in a church, it is called a votive offering. The act of lighting the candle can represent various types of prayer offerings.

These might include:

  • Remembrance of a deceased loved one
  • Request for a healing
  • Expression of gratitude
  • Offering of love and devotion
  • Request for divine assistance in resolving a problem or meeting a challenge

Historical Importance of Votive Candles in Christianity

Father William Saunders, dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, writes what votive candles represented in Christianity dating back to the Middle Ages. Father Saunders explains how people would light a number of votive candles until the 2" candles added up the individual's height.

You can imagine how many candles a person would need to light. If you were 5'8", then your height would be 68". That means you'd need to light 34 votives. This practice was known as measuring to. It was meant to be a representation of the person (signified by the burning candles) joining or stepping into the Light (Christ Light) in prayer and thanksgiving.

Votive Candles and Their Many Uses

Votives are available in all colors. The scented ones come in a wide variety of fragrances. These short candles provide the ambience you can only get from candle light.

What Is a Votive Candle? Small Accents That Make an Impact