It is believed in Judaism that every commandment that a Jew upholds in this world brings light into the world. Something special about the Shabbat candles is this light can actually be seen an enjoyed. Candles are lit on the eve of the Sabbath day so as to usher the day in, showing our love of the day. There also seems to be an instant effect of calmness and serenity on the house from the moment Shabbat candles are lit as the Holy day of Shabbat settles on the house.
The woman of the house is traditionally the one who lights the Shabbat candles. Although her husband can light and extinguish the wicks before she lights so as so to have a part in the commandment and to show that he wishes to help her, contributing to the peace between them, this is exclusively the woman’s commandment. in some Jewish circles girls from the age of three start lighting their own candles and when they get married begin to light two. Others wait until they get married and then light two straight away. Once a woman has children, she may hold by the tradition of adding an additional candle for each child who is born.
Eighteen minutes before sunset on Friday the Shabbat candles are lit. Candle-lighting times change from location to location and it is worth checking the candle-lighting times for your location on a Jewish calendar or even online.
Traditionally, if there are girls lighting then thy light before their mother. Some have the custom of giving charity before lighting the candles.
The woman of the house then lights the candles, extends her hands, drawing them in a circular motion towards herself and covers her eyes. She then recites the special blessing over the Shabbat candles, “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.”
Many women also take advantage of the auspicious occasion to pray in private. After this, the woman will uncover her eyes and wish those surrounding her, “Shabbat Shalom”- “A Peaceful Shabbat”.
Once a woman has lit Shabbat candles she has ushered in Shabbat and may therefore not permit any activities that are forbidden on Shabbat. The candles and candlesticks may not be moved until after Shabbat. In cases where Shabbat candles can’t be used, such as a hospital, an electric bulb can be used.