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Yellowdog's avatar

Why do Scandinavian Christmas menorahs -- and St. Lucia's crown -- have seven candles?

Asked by Yellowdog (11162points) March 25th, 2016

I began to get interested in Saint Lucia’s day many years ago—but this tradition involving seven I do not understand. There are traditions about who to remember or say a prayer for, but I doubt these are authentic.

Although it is true that the Hebrew/Jewish menorah has seven candles, the Hanukkiah does not. And some church altars have a pair of candelabras with seven candles—I don’t know if this is for the same reason, or what this is about.

Feel free to share anything you know or think. I am looking for as much information as I can find. However, to uncover the real reason would be must appreciated.

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7 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

The menorah has 7 (6+1) because that is how it is described in the Torah.

The Chanukah menorah has 9 (8+1) because when the Jews were able to go back into their temple after having been oppressed and worse (again) the eternal flame in the temple only had one day of oil. The journey to get more oil was 4 days. 4 days there and 4 days back. During this 8 day journey a miracle happened and the one day of oil had lasted throughout the 8 days. That miracle is the Chanukah celebration.

cazzie's avatar

They aren’t menorahs if they don’t have 9 candles. We have candle holders with 4 generally for the four weeks in advent. I live in Norway.

cazzie's avatar

St Lucia is more of a Swedish traditional thing but we do it here as well. I find no reference to seven candles on her crown can you send me yours?

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie 9 candles is a Chanukah menorah. 7 is also a menorah.

cazzie's avatar

What does 7 mean? Is it Christian? Does menorah just mean candle holder?

Yellowdog's avatar

Menorahs are typically Jewish candelabrum but I guess any altar or liturgical candelabra I would refer to as a menorah, since it is used on a holy altar or in a holy place, related to Jewish Temple worship. I think most use olive oil instead of candles.

As for the St. Lucia tradition, she supposedly has seven candles also and the daughter of the household serves hot cross buns or some other biscuit or cookies and tea at seven in the morning to her mother and father.

I am not aware of anything specifically Christian about the number Seven. The gematra of the name Jesus (Yeshua) in Hebrew is 888. Seven is a number typically signifying completeness, and 8 either the cycle starting over again or something beyond complete.

It is certainly possible that the Saint Lucia celebration is not adhered to strictly by regular people and the amount of candles doesn’t matter—just like many Christians get the candles wrong during the season of Advent (there are five, not four—and the third candle is pink though many think its the fourth)

By the way, I want to emphasize I am not a strong stickler to the significance of numbers or rituals, But I do like to understand them and respectfully do them correctly. I like to appreciate what I am doing and why if its worth doing at all. And I DO love Scandinavia, though I imagine I’d feel a great deal of culture shock there.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

St. Lucia is celebrated on the 13th of December every year in Sweden. In legend, St. Lucia fed the starving Christians hiding in the dark catacombs under Rome during the days of persecution. She wore a crown of candles to find her way, because her arms were full of food. Today, it is simply a festival of light for most, a way to break up the long winter with a festival. The girls who play Lucia in the pageant usually have long hair. The Swedes are prudent people and prudence demands that four candles are more than enough for a young girl to carry in such close proximity to her hair. Nowadays, many of the crowns are battery operated anyway. I don’t think there is a fixed number, but four seems to be quite popular.

Nobody can know how many candles the original Lucia used.

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