Unveiling the Meaning of What Does the 18 Candles Symbolize

The 18 candles symbolize a momentous occasion in someone’s life. It’s an opportunity for friends and family to come together and celebrate the journey of the person turning 18. Whether it’s a debutante ball, a quinceanera, or a traditional 18th birthday celebration, the lighting of 18 candles is a significant and unforgettable experience.

Each candle represents a special person in the life of the celebrant. The first candle is usually lit by the parents or guardians of the celebrant followed by the other 17 candles representing the individual people who have made an impact on the celebrant’s life. Each person who lights a candle is invited to share a few words of wisdom or encouragement for the person turning 18. It’s a time to reflect on the past and look towards the future with optimism and excitement.

The 18 candles symbolize a rite of passage as the celebrant crosses the threshold into adulthood. It’s a time when the celebrant moves beyond the age of being a child and towards becoming a fully grown adult. It’s a time when young adults take on new responsibilities, make important decisions, and set their sights on ambitious goals. The symbolism of the 18 candles is a reminder that the people in our lives play an essential role in shaping who we are and who we will become.

Overview of the 18 candles tradition

The 18 candles tradition is a part of Filipino debut celebrations. It is a special moment where the debutante invites 18 people prominent in her life to light a candle each. It is a customary gesture that symbolizes a significant turning point in a young woman’s life, from childhood to adulthood.

The 18 candles tradition commonly starts after the 18 roses dance, which is another significant aspect in Filipino debut celebrations. Upon completing the 18 roses dance, the debutante invites 18 people to light a candle and say a short message to the debutante. This tradition is an excellent opportunity for the debutante to express her gratitude towards those who supported her in her journey and picked the 18 most influential individuals in her life.

As an expert in Filipino debut traditions, it is essential to point out that the 18 candles tradition signifies more than just making wishes for the debutante. It involves holding a candle as it signifies passing the torch from the previous generations to the new ones. As they light up their candles, they pass over a portion of their life experience and expertise to the debutante. The message they give to the debutante is their guidance, advice, and positive energy for a brighter future ahead.

Historical background of the ritual

The 18 candles ritual has become one of the most important traditions in Philippine debutante balls. But what exactly is the origin of this ritual? Let’s take a look at the historical background of the ritual to gain a better understanding of it.

  • The ritual is said to have originated from the European’s tradition of lighting candles and making wishes for the debutante birthday.
  • It was then introduced to the Philippines during the Spanish colonization in the 1500s, but was only practiced by the affluent families as it required expensive candles.
  • The tradition has evolved through the years, and in the 21st century, it has become a way of honoring the debutante as she turns 18, signifying her transition to adulthood and her readiness to take on new responsibilities.

Meaning behind the 18 candles

The 18 candles represent a rite of passage and signify different aspects of the debutante’s life. Each candle is significant and represents a particular person or group of people that has played an important role in the debutante’s life.

The 18 candles symbolize different aspects of the debutante’s life:

  • Candle 1 – Symbolizes the debutante’s parents and their unconditional love and support.
  • Candle 2 – Symbolizes her grandparents, who are the pillars of the family.
  • Candle 3 – Symbolizes the debutante’s siblings, showing gratitude for their role in shaping her life and personality.
  • Candle 4 – Symbolizes her relatives, including aunts, uncles, and cousins.
  • Candle 5 – Symbolizes her Godparents, who have been instrumental in her spiritual journey.
  • Candle 6 – Symbolizes her childhood friends, who have been by her side through thick and thin.
  • Candle 7 – Symbolizes her high school friends, who made her school years memorable.
  • Candle 8 – Symbolizes her college friends, who made her college life enjoyable and fulfilling.
  • Candle 9 – Symbolizes her teammates, coaches, and mentors in sports and extracurricular activities.
  • Candle 10 – Symbolizes her workmates, who contributed to her professional growth.
  • Candle 11 – Symbolizes her neighbors and community members, who have been supportive of her family.
  • Candle 12 – Symbolizes her future in-laws, expressing excitement for the next chapter of her life.
  • Candle 13 – Symbolizes her future children, signifying her hope for a family of her own.
  • Candle 14 – Symbolizes her future husband, expressing her desire for a loving and happy marriage.
  • Candle 15 – Symbolizes her dreams and aspirations, highlighting the goals she wants to achieve in life.
  • Candle 16 – Symbolizes the people who have passed away, paying homage to their memory and legacy.
  • Candle 17 – Symbolizes her country and her devotion to it.
  • Candle 18 – Symbolizes God, expressing gratitude for all the blessings and opportunities bestowed upon her.


The 18 candles ritual is a beautiful tradition that has stood the test of time. It is a meaningful way of honoring the debutante and showing gratitude to the people who have played an important role in her life. The candles hold a great deal of significance and carry with them the hopes and aspirations of the debutante and her loved ones.

Number Symbolization
1 The debutante’s parents and their unconditional love and support
2 The debutante’s grandparents, who are the pillars of the family
3 The debutante’s siblings, showing gratitude for their role in shaping her life and personality
4 The debutante’s relatives, including aunts, uncles, and cousins
5 The debutante’s Godparents, who have been instrumental in her spiritual journey

The rest of the candles are detailed in the list above.

Significance of the Number 18

When it comes to the 18 candles in a debut celebration, the number 18 holds a special significance. Here’s a closer look at the meaning of this important number:

The Power of 3 in 18

One of the reasons that 18 is considered an auspicious number is due to the presence of the number 3 in its digits. In numerology, the number 3 is often associated with creativity, positivity, and growth.

Think about how many significant things come in threes – from the Holy Trinity to the Three Musketeers to the primary colors. There’s something magical and powerful about the number 3, and that significance gets amplified when it’s repeated, as it is in 18.

This is one reason why 18 is often seen as a number of good luck and potential. It’s believed that when something is repeated three times, it becomes more powerful and effective. So when the number 3 shows up twice in 18, it can be seen as a kind of double blessing.

Other Beliefs about 18’s Significance

  • In Hebrew, each letter is assigned a numerical value, and the word “chai” (meaning “life”) adds up to 18. Because of this, 18 is often associated with blessings, good health, and long life.
  • Another reason that 18 is considered important is that it’s the age at which young people become adults in many cultures. In Judaism, for example, 18 is the age at which a person is considered fully responsible for their actions and accountable to God.
  • Some people also believe that 18 is associated with blessings related to financial good fortune, because the digits 1 and 8 resemble a path to success.

The 18 Candles Tradition

In the context of a debut celebration, the 18 candles tradition is a way for the debutante to honor 18 special people in her life and to receive blessings and wishes for her future. Each candle is dedicated to a specific person – a family member, close friend, teacher or mentor, for example – who plays a special role in the debutante’s life.

The candles are often lit in a specific order, with the first few representing family members and the rest representing other loved ones. As each person approaches to light their candle, they may offer a few words of wisdom, a wish for the debutante’s future, or a special memory. The debutante then blows out each candle, symbolizing the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood.

Traditional order of lighting the 18 candles
Best friend(s)
Close relatives
Mentors or teachers
Other close friends
Other godparents or relatives
Special friends or classmates
Aunts and uncles
Great grandparents
Neighbor or godbrother/godsister
Others who played a special part in her debut year
Representative of the Church
Representative of the Community
The Debutante’s Special Someone

Overall, the 18 candles tradition is a beautiful way to celebrate the debutante’s journey through childhood and into adulthood. By honoring 18 special people in her life, the debutante is surrounded by love, support, and positivity as she embarks on her next chapter.

Preparation and planning for the 18 candles ceremony

The 18 candles ceremony is a significant part of a debut celebration in the Philippines. This tradition usually takes place near the end of the program, where 18 candles are taken up by a chosen 18 individuals who will wish the debutante love, success, and happiness. As one of the most awaited moments of the celebration, preparation and planning for this ceremony are crucial, especially when organizing a grand event. Below are some tips to consider when preparing for the 18 candles ceremony.

Number 4 Subsection: Choosing the 18 candle sponsors

  • 1. Timeframe
    Choosing the 18 candle sponsors must be done at least a month before the actual debut. This would give enough time to finalize the list, invite the sponsors, and confirm the number of candles for each sponsor.
  • 2. Criteria
    One of the essential parts of this preparation is choosing the right 18 individuals who will hold the candles for the ceremony. These individuals may comprise family members, close friends, and mentors. It is essential to choose someone who has a good relationship with the debutante and someone who can deliver a heartfelt message in support of her. It is also advisable to consider the sponsor’s age, as they need to light the candles without any assistance.
  • 3. Coordination
    Coordinating with the chosen candle sponsors is also necessary. The organizer must prepare guidelines for them on what to wear, where to stand, how to hold the candles, and what to say. A guidebook or program flow is also given to help the sponsors prepare their speeches and coordinate with the emcee.
  • 4. Backup Sponsors
    Additional individuals may also be identified as backup sponsors in case any of the original 18 sponsors cannot make it on the day of the event. This would ensure that the ceremony would still go smoothly without any hiccups.

By following these tips, organizing the 18 candles ceremony would be easier and more organized. The debutante and her loved ones would be able to cherish this special moment without any stress or hassle. The preparation and planning stage is essential to make the ceremony a success and a memorable part of the debut celebration.

The Role of the 18 Candles in Filipino Debut Tradition

Debut celebrations, which mark a young lady’s coming of age, are an integral part of Filipino culture. One of the most significant traditions of these parties is the lighting of the 18 candles. The 18 candles represent the celebrant’s closest female friends and family members. These significant people impart their good wishes and impart some advice on the celebrant as she moves on in life. In this article, we will delve deeper into the role of the 18 candles in Filipino debut tradition.

  • Symbolism of the 18 Candles

    The 18 candles symbolize the light of wisdom that these influential women pass to the debutant. The flames from these candles are said to carry the wisdom of each of the women who light them, which the debutant must learn from throughout her life.

  • The Significance of 18

    The number 18 carries immense significance to Filipinos. According to traditional Filipino beliefs, the number 18 represents life, success, and happiness. Moreover, it signifies the peak of one’s youth. Therefore, the 18 candles represent the celebrant’s move into adulthood and her readiness to take on life’s challenges.

  • The Ceremony of Lighting of 18 Candles

    The 18 candles’ ceremony begins with the debutant standing in the center of a room, surrounded by her closest female friends and family members. One by one, the 18 ladies light a candle from a central flame and offer good wishes, memories, and advice to the debutant. The debutant then blows out all the candles, signifying the end of one chapter of her life and the beginning of a new one.

The Symbolic Meanings of the 18 Candles

The 18 candles have a variety of symbolic meanings, each carrying a different message for the debutant. Here is a table that shows the symbolic meaning of each candle.

Candle No. Symbolic Meaning
1 Leadership and Guidance
2 Faith
3 Strength
4 Grace
5 Friendship
6 Happiness
7 Success
8 Love for Family
9 Adventurous Spirit
10 Filial Love and Respect for Elders
11 Love for Nature
12 Sincerity
13 Good Health
14 Gratitude
15 Humility
16 Integrity
17 Compassion
18 Wisdom

The 18 candles play an essential role in a Filipino debut celebration. The light of each candle carries the message of the woman holding it, which the debutant must heed to attain success, happiness, and wisdom throughout her new journey in adulthood.

Symbolism behind lighting the 18 candles

Lighting the 18 candles is a significant tradition in Filipino debut celebrations. Each candle symbolizes an important person or aspect of the debutante’s life. The 18 candles are usually given by a close friend or family member and are individually presented to the debutante in a special ceremony. Below are some of the symbols and meanings behind lighting the 18 candles:

Number 6: Sisterhood or Brotherhood

The sixth candle represents sisterhood or brotherhood. This candle is usually given by a sibling or a close cousin. It symbolizes the bond between the debutante and her siblings or cousins. The person who lights the sixth candle usually gives a heartfelt speech about their relationship with the debutante and how much she means to them. It is a touching moment that highlights the importance of family ties and the love that siblings or cousins share.

Aside from representing sisterhood or brotherhood, the number six is also considered a symbol of harmony and balance. In numerology, the number six is associated with intuition, emotional depth, and nurturing energy. These traits may also be present in the relationship between the debutante and her sibling or cousin who lights the sixth candle.

Overall, the sixth candle is a beautiful symbol of the special bond between siblings or cousins. It serves as a reminder that family is an important part of the debutante’s life and that the love and support of relatives can help her achieve great things.

Other Symbols and Meanings

  • The 1st candle represents the debutante’s parents
  • The 2nd candle represents the debutante’s siblings or cousins
  • The 3rd candle represents the debutante’s grandparents
  • The 4th candle represents the debutante’s godparents
  • The 5th candle represents the debutante’s friends
  • The 6th candle represents sisterhood or brotherhood
  • The 7th candle represents education or career
  • The 8th candle represents financial stability
  • The 9th candle represents love and romance
  • The 10th candle represents travel and adventure
  • The 11th candle represents health and wellness
  • The 12th candle represents the debutante’s 12 months of life
  • The 13th candle represents her role in the family
  • The 14th candle represents her responsibility as a citizen
  • The 15th candle represents her 15 years of life
  • The 16th candle represents her future 16 years of life
  • The 17th candle represents her future 17 years of life
  • The 18th candle represents her future and the people who will continue to support her

In Conclusion

The 18 candles ceremony is a beautiful tradition that highlights the most important people and aspects of a debutante’s life. The symbolism behind each candle adds a special meaning to the event and reminds us of the importance of family, friends, and the relationships we build throughout our lives.

Candle Number Symbolism
1 Parents
2 Siblings or cousins
3 Grandparents
4 Godparents
5 Friends
6 Sisterhood or Brotherhood
7 Education or Career
8 Financial Stability
9 Love and Romance
10 Travel and Adventure
11 Health and Wellness
12 12 Months of Life
13 Role in the Family
14 Responsibility as a Citizen
15 15 Years of Life
16 Future 16 Years of Life
17 Future 17 Years of Life
18 Future and People Who Will Support Her

Popular songs and readings for the 18 candles segment

The 18 candles segment is an important part of Filipino coming-of-age celebrations, especially for young girls. It symbolizes the 18 significant people in the celebrant’s life that have guided her throughout her teenage years and will continue to do so as she transitions into adulthood. As part of this tradition, each of the 18 candles is lit by a significant person who then offers a short message of encouragement and well wishes to the celebrant.

One popular way to make this segment more heartfelt is by playing a selection of songs or readings that reflect the significance of the moment. Here are some popular options:

  • Songs: “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle, “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack, “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler, “A Song For Mama” by Boyz II Men
  • Readings: “The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, “On Your Graduation” by John O’Donohue, “Ithaka” by C.P. Cavafy, “Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Whatever songs or readings you choose, it’s important to make sure they align with the celebrant’s personality and values. This will make the 18 candles segment a more meaningful and memorable part of her celebration.

Differences in 18 Candles Traditions Across Cultures

The 18 candles tradition is a significant ceremony in many cultures around the world. However, the ritual of lighting 18 candles varies across different cultures and traditions. The number 18 is considered as an auspicious number and is believed to signify luck, prosperity, and good fortune. Let’s take a closer look at how the number 8 is perceived in various cultures:

The Number 8

The number 8 is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture. The pronunciation of the number ‘8’ in Chinese sounds similar to the word ‘fortune’ or ‘wealth’. Therefore, many Chinese couples choose to get married on the 8th day of the 8th month to bring good luck and fortune to their marriage.

Similarly, in Jewish culture, the number 18 symbolizes ‘life’. The Hebrew word for life is ‘chai,’ which is composed of two letters that add up to 18. Therefore, gifting money in multiples of 18 is a customary practice during weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and other celebratory events.

On the other hand, in some cultures, the number 8 is considered an unlucky number. In Japan, the number eight is pronounced as ‘hachi,’ which sounds similar to the word ‘pain.’ Therefore, it’s considered bad luck to gift anything in multiples of eight, such as eight candles, to a person recovering from an injury or any health issue.

Different Candles Traditions in Various Cultures:

  • In Filipino culture, the 18 candles tradition is known as the ‘candle lighting ceremony’ and is observed on a girl’s 18th birthday. The birthday girl chooses 18 individuals to light the candles, which signify the different qualities and characteristics that she admires in them.
  • In Jewish tradition, the tradition of lighting 18 candles is known as ‘Shabbat candles’ and is observed every Friday evening. This tradition is a way to welcome the Sabbath and symbolizes the hope for peace, harmony, and unity in the world.
  • In Thai culture, the 18 candles ceremony is known as the ‘Wai Kru’ ceremony and is observed to honor and show gratitude towards teachers and ancestors. The tradition involves lighting 18 candles and offering flowers, incense, and fruits to the teachers and ancestors.


The number 8 has different connotations in different cultures. While some consider it a lucky number, others perceive it as unlucky. The 18 candles tradition has a unique significance across various cultures and is observed in different ways to celebrate significant events in life. Regardless of the cultural differences, the tradition of lighting 18 candles is a way to recognize and show gratitude towards people who have left a significant impact on our lives.

Chinese Culture Jewish Culture Japanese Culture
Perception of 8 Lucky number, symbolizes wealth and prosperity Symbolizes life, a customary practice to gift money in multiples of 18 Unlucky number, sounds similar to the word ‘pain’ in Japanese

Modern interpretations of the 18 candles ceremony

The 18 candles ceremony, also known as “simbang gabi,” is a traditional Filipino tradition celebrated during a debutante’s 18th birthday. The ceremony involves the debutante lighting 18 candles, each representing a significant person or milestone in her life. This grand celebration symbolizes the debutant’s transition from childhood into womanhood and is a significant event in the Filipino community.

The Significance of Number 9

Out of the 18 candles, nine of them are typically reserved for women, while the other nine are reserved for men. The number nine holds immense significance in the Filipino culture and symbolizes completeness and fulfillment. It is believed that the number 9 is closely associated with the idea of “gift” and represents blessings, happiness, and good luck.

  • First Candle: The first candle is usually lit by the parents of the debutante, symbolizing their unconditional love and support for their daughter.
  • Second Candle: This candle is for the debutante’s grandparents, symbolizing their wisdom and guidance throughout her life.
  • Third Candle: This candle goes out to the debutante’s godparents, representing their significant role in the debutante’s life.
  • Fourth Candle: The fourth candle is for the siblings of the debutante, representing sibling love and support.
  • Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Candle: These candles are for the close relatives of the debutante.
  • Eighth Candle: This candle is for the debutante’s friends, symbolizing their loyalty and support throughout the years.
  • Ninth Candle: The ninth candle is for the debutante herself, signifying her values and dreams.
  • Tenth Candle onwards: The remaining candles are lit by important people in the debutante’s life, such as mentors, teachers, and significant others.

The 18 candles tradition has evolved over the years, with some families inviting 18 male or female friends instead of dividing them equally. Modern interpretations of the ceremony also involve the debutante lighting candles for anyone who has impacted her life in a significant way, regardless of their gender or relationship.

Candle Number Recipient Symbolism
1 Parents Unconditional Love and Support
2 Grandparents Wisdom and Guidance
3 Godparents Significant Role in Life
4 Siblings Sibling Love and Support
5-7 Close Relatives Solidarity and Family Ties
8 Friends Loyalty and Support
9 Debutante Values and Dreams
10+ Important People in Debutante’s Life Significant Impact in Life

As the Filipino community becomes more diverse over time, new and modern interpretations of the 18 candles ceremony will continue to arise, but the core symbolism of the 18 candles ceremony and its values will remain unchanged.

Alternative rituals to the 18 candles tradition

The 18 candles tradition is a popular ritual in Filipino debut parties where 18 individuals light a candle to symbolize various aspects of the celebrant’s life. However, there are other alternative rituals that can bring a meaningful and unique touch to your debut party. Here are some ideas:

  • Tree planting ceremony: Instead of lighting candles, plant trees in honor of the celebrant’s coming of age. This promotes environmental advocacy and leaves a lasting impact on the community.
  • Message jar: Have guests write their wishes or messages on small pieces of paper and place them in a jar. The celebrant can read these messages to remind her of the love and support from her friends and family.
  • Time capsule: Encourage guests to bring small items that represent their memories with the celebrant. Place them in a time capsule which will be opened on a future milestone celebration, like the celebrant’s 25th birthday.

Thinking outside the box can make your debut party memorable and unique. Here are other ideas you might want to explore:

Charity donation: As part of the debut party, consider donating to a nearby charity. Whether it’s food, clothes, or just a simple gathering, you can make a difference in your community.

Artistic expression: Showcase the celebrant’s artistic talents by having her create a painting or sculpture during the debut party. Guests can contribute their own artistic touch to the artwork, creating a collaborative piece that represents the celebration.

Feast for a cause: Have guests contribute a dish for a potluck-style feast. Ask them to donate an amount equivalent to the cost of store-bought food which will go to a chosen charitable institution.

Creating new traditions

Whether you choose to stick to tradition or create your own, remember that the debut party is all about celebrating the coming of age of the celebrant. It’s an opportunity to showcase her personality, talents, and values. So don’t be afraid to think outside the box and create your own unique traditions!

Traditional Debut Ritual Alternative Debut Ritual
18 candles Tree planting ceremony
18 roses Message jar
18 treasures Time capsule

The beauty of creating new traditions is that you can personalize them to the celebrant’s interests and beliefs. Remember that it’s not about following the rules but about celebrating the individual who is entering a new phase of their life.

FAQs: What Does the 18 Candles Symbolize?

1. What is the origin of the 18 candles tradition?

In traditional Filipino debut celebrations, the 18 candles represent the 18 years of life of the celebrant and her transition to womanhood.

2. Who usually lights the 18 candles?

Close friends and family members of the celebrant, usually females, light the 18 candles and give a short message or wish.

3. What do the 18 candles symbolize?

The 18 candles symbolize the important people in the celebrant’s life who have made an impact and helped shape her into who she is today. Each candle represents a person who has been significant in her life.

4. Can males also participate in the 18 candles tradition?

Yes, males can participate in the 18 candles tradition. It is not limited to females only.

5. What should the message be when lighting a candle?

The message can be anything from a simple wish for the celebrant’s happiness to a heartfelt message expressing gratitude for the friendship or relationship.

6. What is the significance of blowing out the candles after they are lit?

Blowing out the candles symbolizes the celebrant’s accepting of the blessings and well-wishes from those who have lit the candles.

7. Is the 18 candles tradition practiced in other cultures?

Similar traditions are practiced in other cultures, such as the Quinceañera, a celebration of a girl’s transition to womanhood in Latin American culture.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to learn about the significance of the 18 candles tradition. It is a meaningful way to honor the important people in a young woman’s life during her coming-of-age celebration. Whether you are participating in this tradition or just learning about it, we hope this information has been helpful. Don’t forget to visit our website for more informative articles in the future.