Worldwide Candle Lighting Day: Date + How to Participate


You may feel pain anytime you lose a loved one. However, the loss of a child can feel particularly devastating. The pain such a loss causes may endure for years to come.

However, you can heal. Although you probably won't completely “get over” the loss of a child, you can move on with strength and hope.

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Try turning to others for support and offer your own support to those who understand your pain. Worldwide Candle Lighting Day offers the chance to do both.

What Is Compassionate Friends’ Worldwide Candle Lighting Day?

Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, an annual event, gathers people who have lost children to light candles, pray, and generally support each other. This global event takes place in different time zones and creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone, according to Compassionate Friends.

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.


The Compassionate Friends, an organization that consists of people who lost children (as well as grandchildren and child siblings), all work together to support one another in various ways.

The organization first observed Worldwide Candle Lighting Day in 1997. Back then, it was only a small internet observance with relatively few participants compared to today. 

The appeal of such an observance caught on fast. Over the years it has attracted more and more participants. Now, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world participate in Worldwide Candle Lighting Day annually. In fact, the Compassionate Friends claim Worldwide Candle Lighting Day as the largest mass candle lighting on the planet.


Observances such as Worldwide Candle Lighting Day remind participants that they don't have to remain alone in their grief. In addition, Worldwide Candle Lighting Day also honors the memories of children who have gone too soon. 

Although nothing can entirely fill the void of a deceased child, knowing that others cope with the same type of pain can make the experience somewhat easier.

When Is Worldwide Candle Lighting Day?

There’s no set date for Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. It takes place on the second Sunday in December of every year. Official ceremonies typically begin at 7 p.m. local time. That’s the time to join with others in your area in lighting a candle for someone who died.

How Can You Participate in Worldwide Candle Lighting Day?

Worldwide Candle Lighting Day isn’t solely for parents of deceased children. Siblings and grandparents of children who died can also participate.

If you know people who lost a child, you may wish to participate as well. Depending on a given chapter’s policies, you might not be able to participate in an official event because you must have lost a child of your own.

However, you can still light a candle and participate in other ways. Showing your support by participating in observances offers a wonderful gift for parents who lost a child.

You can participate in Worldwide Candle Lighting Day in various ways.

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Participate in an official event

You don’t have to participate in an official event to observe Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, but if you can, you can appreciate what it represents to those who have lost parents.

The Compassionate Friends website offers a list of official Worldwide Candle Lighting Day events. You can search for an event in your area by state or country. Each entry on the list will tell you when and where the event will take place and who you can contact for more information.

The event descriptions also give instructions regarding what to bring (such as photos of a deceased child) and other relevant details. Read these instructions thoroughly to ensure you understand the organizers’ wishes.

You may not find official Worldwide Candle Lighting Day events in your area. However, you may find a chapter of the Compassionate Friends near you that simply hasn’t provided any information about their event yet. You can look for chapters nearby online and contact the organization to ask about its official program this year.

Organize an event

You can also organize an event if it appears that no official events will occur in your area and you can't find a chapter of The Compassionate Friends nearby. If you genuinely believe you’re qualified to do so, you can start your own chapter.

However, you have to meet certain requirements first. You must be the parent, adult sibling, or grandparent of a child who passed away. At least 18 months must have passed since your loved one's death. You also can’t start a chapter within a 30-minute drive of an existing chapter. Starting a chapter also requires paying some fees.

The Compassionate Friends encourages those interested in starting a chapter to coordinate with others when doing so. It’s much easier to start a chapter when you have help. However, if this isn’t an option, you can start a chapter on your own.

Participate virtually

The Compassionate Friends also offers a virtual worldwide candle lighting event. Keep in mind, participating virtually in this manner isn’t just a matter of practical convenience.

When you participate in an event at your local chapter, you can only observe Worldwide Candle Lighting Day with those in your area. Participating in a worldwide virtual event allows you to join in solidarity with grieving families and individuals across the globe. That said, many local chapters also offer virtual events. Check the website to learn more about your options.

Participate digitally

You can participate in Worldwide Candle Lighting Day online. Along with attending a virtual event, you can sign the online guestbook. The Compassionate Friends’ national website will offer the chance to sign the guestbook during the event and typically for a day or so after. You can also post photos of a deceased child on the official Worldwide Candle Lighting Day Facebook page.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Call someone

This isn’t an “official” method of participating in Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. Nevertheless, it certainly honors the spirit and purpose of this observance.

Do you know someone who lost a child, grandchild, or child sibling? If so, consider reaching out to them on this day to remind them that you’re always there if they need support of any kind. Y

es, it can be difficult to know what to say to someone who lost a baby or child, but you may not need to have the “right” words. Simply reminding someone you’re there for them may be meaningful enough.

That said, you have to use your judgment when reaching out to someone not aware of Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. An unexpected call reminding someone of a loss may take a surprising emotional toll. Consider your relationship with those you're calling to determine if reaching out is a good idea.

Organize a home event

Although you may wish to support the Compassionate Friends by participating in an official event, this might not be an option, for various reasons. If so, you may want to organize an unofficial event in your home. You can read the descriptions of other such events to get ideas for what yours should include, such as prayers and candle lighting poetry.

If you want to invite others to attend, you may want to limit participants to loved ones and those with whom you have a close personal relationship. You might not want to invite others mourning the loss of a child if you don’t know them well.

If you’re not a bereavement counselor or similar specialist, you may not know how to organize an event that ends up being a truly positive and healing experience for all involved.

Of course, you don’t have to invite anyone at all if you’d prefer to keep it private. You may instead choose to organize a small personal observance solely for yourself and other close family members if you prefer. 


You can also participate by donating to the Compassionate Friends. You may want to respectfully participate in the observance but you haven’t yourself lost a child, grandchild, or child sibling. You may also volunteer with the organization.

Worldwide Candle Lighting Day: A Global Day of Healing

You may never entirely move on from a child’s passing. That said, by joining others to participate in an observance such as Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, you may find some peace.

  1. “Form a Chapter.” The Compassionate Friends,
  2. “Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service.” The Compassionate Friends,

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