For me, Shabbat is a tradition that’s all about family. It begins at sunddown on Friday eve [18 minutes before sundown to be exact] and lasts until late Saturday–every single week year round. It’s a time when I stop doing any work, including housework, turn off the phones, the computer, the TV and just spend time with my family. Shabbat is our oasis of calm after a hectic week, and lighting our candles begins the calm. Satuday is literally observed as our day of quiet reflection and family time.

Every Friday night, 18 minutes before sundown Jewish women all over the world light their candles. It only takes a few moments, but it’s SUCH a beautiful tradition and marks the beginning of our Shabbat. After the candles are lit we eat a special meal together in our dining room and share the Challah.

Many women light their candles on the dining table. In fact, I believe the candles are technically supposed to illuminate [and last through] the meal. I light my candles on a table near the dining room, in view of, but I think that they are actually correct and I’m off the mark a bit. I’m just set in my ways though, and I have a small children in my home that I don’t want to touch the candles. The dining table may be just a bit too tempting for them! I light my candles in front of photos of my family. It works for me. I use tea lights and place them in crystal holders that are only used for Shabbat. Most homes I’ve been to also use tea lights and tend to place the lights in something ornate, often silver candelabras. As long as you’re making the setting beautiful and honouring a tradition, I don’t think the holder matters.

Why tea lights? Well, there’s a very important reason. You can’t blow the candles out! They have to run their course and extinguish themselves. Therefore, tea lights or equivilent are perfect because they only burn for a few hours. A taper would be dangerous to leave unattended overnight. Regardless of what type of candle you use, make sure they are placed somewhere safe, heat resistant and away from all dangers and out of reach of small children.

So what to do exactly? Well, you light one candle for each member of your immediate family, and one candle for anyone you’re concerned about or want to make special mention of. I light four every week, with my candle in the middle because we’re a family of four. If there’s a neighbour or friend [Jewish or not] that I’m concerned about, I’ll light a candle for them too.

The woman in the house lights the candles for her family. Girls and unmarried women only light one, unless they are running the household. If there is no woman in the house it’s okay for the man to light them. Otherwise it isn’t traditional for them to do so. Children are encouraged to watch and take part in this tradition.

So what do we say? How do we do it? Well we light the candle for each member of the family individually and I chatter outloud about the blessings I hope for. I literally say, “I light this candle for me” [I'm the candle in the middle because I am the woman of the house, and therefore the family nucleus] I light it for my health, my safety, my happiness, my concerns/hopes for the week ahead. Then I move on to my husband, who’s candle is always on my left where he first stood when we married. I say the same for his candle. “I light this candle for my husband Jamie, for his health, safety, happiness…” etc. and any concerns that are current that I wish to bring up. Finally I light a candle for my son Jack and go through this process again. Once the candles are lit, I put my arms around them in the air, and circle the candles three times with my arms, drawing the flame’s energy toward me. After the third time I cover my eyes and say the Shabbat candle blessing in both hebrew and English. It goes like this:

Barukh atah adonai, eloheinu, melekh ha’olam asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu l’had’lik neir shel Shabbat.

Blessed are you, Lord, our G-d, king of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Shabbat. (Amen)

With that I leave the candles to burn brightly and extinguish themselves. I feel that the energy in my home completely changes once our candles are lit. The candle lighting time changes every week [obviously] so here’s a handly guide to help you know when to light them:

It’s now time to go enjoy Shabbat!


  1. Judith says:

    Creaetd the greatest articles, you have.

  2. Sherry Marsh says:

    nothing like the shalom of Shabbat. Everything just slows down and I look forward to it every week. Shabbat Shalom Meg/

    • Sari says:

      I’m hooked on your blog and I always have something to say. ;) My husband and I aren’t different religions, however he IS Canadian, and they have a bunch of holidays that we don’t celebrate here. And while the rest of us in this house are from the US, we’re American Citizens and of course we honor all the American holidays but, like you and your family, because it’s a special thing that he likes to do, and it honors him, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, we celebrate Canada Day, and Fat Tuesday is a pretty big deal in his family, so we do Pancake Day since that’s what they always did. It incorporates a bit of the magic of his childhood into our childrens’ childhoods, and broadens their view beyond just what they see repeated around them on every plastic lunchbox. That there are different countries, different cultures, different religions, etc that do things differently than we do. As a result my kids are much more open minded than I was as a kid, and they LOVE learning about other people and the way they live. It’s all about and learning about it, but there isn’t anywhere around here where we could do that. Downside to living in rural NE Oklahoma. heh I think you’re doing a wonderful thing with your kids in showing them how it goes, showing them it’s important to your husband and you support him and you want to include him in this holiday, and you want him to include all of you in his rituals as well. This is a great lesson for them to learn to help them with their partner and kids down the line by being openminded and not having to walk a rigid like and never take a step into something not exactly one thing or another. So in short, I love your blog.

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