While in Quiapo, we lit colored candles in one of the several candle lighting (melting) kiosks around the perimeter of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. The ritual of burning or melting colored candles is believed to be offerings in exchange for heaven’s blessings or divine intervention for someone’s desires.
Purifying Month of February
According to the great Nick Joaquin, the tradition of lighting candles as an offering to the gods dates back to the Roman times. “Februus was the Roman god of purification and februa were the means or rites with which one was expiated and purified.”
The name of the month of February came from these rites which used to be the last year of the Roman calendar. “The februa or ceremonies special to the month were intended to purify the environment after the long dark dead of winter.”
The custom survives in Christianity as a feast of lights. On February 2, forty days after the Nativity, the church celebrates the Purification of Our Lady as well as the Presentation of Child Jesus at the Temple.
The Purification or Presentation is the last of the Nativity feasts. In the olden days, the mass on this day used to be sung to Christmas music, with castanet and pandereta. The feast is also known as the Candlemas because of the blessing of the candles on this day and the procession of lights in honor of Our Lady of the Candle, or La Candelaria.
Quiapo Colored Candles
In Quiapo, the color of each candle used in the ritual is believed to have an effect in someone’s life. Red candles when burned invoke a prayer for the good luck or suerte while green promises prosperity and success in business.
Melting a pink candle has positive effects in one’s love life while blue promotes career advancement and more travels. Orange is for good health. White is for peace of mind while black is used to “knock on someone’s conscience.” Red votive candles molded into human form were said to be used for voodoo.
After reciting a short prayer provided to us by the candle vendor, we lit five pre-bundled candles and sent our desires to heaven.