The Ancient Tradition of Putting a Light in a Window at Christmas –
Thank you for Reminding Us, Mr. Stedman!
John Harry Stedman was a prominent Rochesterian in social and business circles in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He was an avid entrepreneur, patenting inventions such as the pipe cleaner and the streetcar transfer ticket. He was active in civic groups and beloved by the people of Rochester. His most enduring legacy, however, was reintroducing the custom of putting lighted candles in windows at Christmastime. in 1913 he discussed reviving this custom and in 1914 a few families started to celebrate this ancient Yule tradition. The following year the tradition caught on, and thousands of homes in Rochester had lighted candles in their windows.
Stedman wrote the following editorial:
To the Editors of the New York Times:
May I remind you that a dear old tradition tells us that “a lighted candle set in the window on Christmas Eve will guide the Babe of Bethlehem to your home, that he may bring you happiness.”
Christmas Eve falls on Sunday this year, and we shall all enjoy it the more for the peaceful interval between the preparation for the holiday and its celebration. We shall all be glad at home, too, when the sun goes down and the twilight falls, and every one of us can light a candle and place it in the window and know the joy of sending its kindly glow out into the darkness to guide the wandering feet of the Christ Child and to light a welcoming pathway for the Babe of Bethlehem to our home.
John Harry Stedman.
Rochester, Dec. 20, 1916
The New York Times
Published: December 23, 1916
Copyright @ The New York Times
To learn more about the fascinating life of John Harry Stedman, read this excellent article by Gregory Foster in the Epitaph.