The Candle Passing

When a pair of NCU students gets engaged a candle passing happens.

For those that don’t already know, the candle passing is an NCU tradition that dates back to at least the 1940’s, and is a formal announcement of a recent engagement. While it is unclear exactly when this tradition got its start at NCU, such candle-passing rituals (otherwise referred to as a “candlelight”) are a long-standing tradition among most sororities and are performed for the same reason. NCU’s candle passing ceremony has evolved over the years, but as any alumnus would tell you, the tradition has always played a major role is student life.

When a couple gets engaged, they keep their engagement a secret until the day of the ceremony, which typically takes place on a Monday in the late evening. At the appointed time, all the girls on campus gather together in the Banquet Room and form a circle in the dark. Romantic music is often played and sometimes the girls will even sing together while the candle is being passed. When the ceremony begins, a bouquet with a lit candle in its center is passed around the room. The engagement ring is often tied to the base of the candle with a ribbon, which allows everyone in the room to see it as the candle is being passed from girl to girl. Once the Candle has come full circle it is passed along again until it reaches the bride-to-be, who then blows out the candle as a way of identifying herself as the recently engaged. Amid the ensuing cheers and screams, the lucky lady puts the ring on her finger and then all the girls then gather around her to hear the story of the proposal.

While the candle is being passed inside the Banquet Room, all the guys on campus wait outside, peering in through the quad-side windows. In years gone by, once the girl was identified, the future groom was captured and carried by his limbs across the street for a “mill-racing.” Being “mill-raced” meant that the individual got tossed into the Mill Race, clothes and all. Those who endured such treatment usually had to throw away the set clothes due to the stench they absorbed. In recent decades this part of the tradition has been abandoned due to the high risk of injury and infection, but that does not mean that the future groom gets off scot-free. Contemporary forms of “mill-racing” range from dunking the individual into a bathtub filled with a potent concoction of water and other miscellaneous liquids, to dousing him with tubs of ice water. These initiations have the same effect as a good-old-fashion “mill-racing,” but are relatively safer.

Once the ring is on the girl’s finger and the guy has returned from being soaked, and all the commotion has subsided, all who are present surround the future bride and groom and pray over them as they enter into their engagement period.

The candle passing is one of NCU’s many beloved traditions, and if you would like to take part in such a ceremony, you’re in luck, because there will be one coming up very soon. As I am sure many of you have noticed, there are posters all over campus for the candle passing that is taking place next Monday, October 14th at 8:00 pm in the Banquet Room. The school is abuzz with speculation as to whom the couple could be, but if you really want to find out, you’ll just have to attend. You may be in for a good surprise. So, if you know someone in a relationship, make sure they are present with you. You wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to douse a friend in ice water, would you?