When we first started the tradition of the candle ceremony, the kids were little. We'd sit around the kitchen table, the lit candles safely on the table, and each of us would say something nice about the child celebrating the birthday. Shaggy Hair Boy always played with his candle, which meant that my tender re-telling the birth story usually included me hissing, "Watch out! Don't set anything on fire." When we'd turn on the lights at the end of the ceremony, Shaggy Hair Boy would be holding a plate of misshapen wax that only vaguely resembled a candle.
As my kids got older and extra kids began coming over for candle ceremonies, we moved the whole thing over to the living area, where we'd hold candles on our laps or set them on windowsills, a circle of flickering light. The candle ceremony expanded to include jokes, insults, and funny anecdotes, and Shaggy Boy outgrew his need to destroy the candles.
Of course, now my kids (and extras) are mostly adults. During last weekend's candle ceremony for Shaggy Hair Boy, I didn't pass out the candles, but just set them on a couple of stools in the middle of the room. I'm no longer worried about little kids burning their fingers — I'm keeping dripping wax away from the laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other electronics that accompany a gang of young people.
We've now been doing candle ceremonies for so long that part of the ritual is to remember what we said during other candle ceremonies, other years. My daughter remembered what she'd said about Shaggy Hair Boy when he was a just a kid, "He's the most genuine person I know." And we all agreed that it's still true.