A votive candle is a small, typically white or beeswax yellow, candle, originally intended to be burnt as a votive offering in a religious ceremony. It also refers to a standard size of candle 2 inches high by 1.5 inches diameter, of any color or scent.
In the Roman Catholic Church, candles are placed before a statue of Jesus or of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Often, in older or traditional churches, this will be before a side altar. Candles used may vary from long, taper-type candles to tea-light candles. Tea-light candles are either placed in holders or just on a platform in front of the statue. Long candles may be placed in a special holder.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, candles are lit before icons, usually of Jesus Christ or the Holy Theotokos. Usually Orthodox churches only use long, thin candles. These are usually placed in round containers, having either various sockets to hold the candles, or in a container filled with sand, in which the worshippers place their candles. Orthodox churches will usually have a separate place to put candles lit for the departed; Roman Catholic churches make no such distinction.
Candles are lit for prayer intentions. To 'light a candle for someone' indicates one's intention to say a prayer for another person, and the candle symbolizes that prayer. A donation box intended to defer candle costs generally accompanies votive candles. In some churches, the donation is considered a mandatory contribution in exchange for lighting a candle.