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Stars on Houses

Someone once told me that stars on houses mean something.  That the person has a child or partner in the Navy?  Or someone from the house was lost at sea?  Or maybe that’s a candle in the window?  What does a candle in the window mean?  Wait, no, we’re talking about stars on houses.

I usually see them near the beach, and maybe that is why I associate them with the ocean.  Whenever we see them, I ask Josh what a star on the house means, and he tells me that he doesn’t know.  And then I forget to ask anyone else when we exit the car.  A few weeks ago, when we were driving past a house with a star on it, I thought to write myself a note.  And then I just found the note, so now I’m asking you.

What does it mean when someone has a metal star on their house?

Please don’t tell me that it means nothing; that it’s just decoration as Josh keeps telling me.  If it were just decoration, I would see them in my neighbourhood.  But I don’t.  I only see them when we’re near the beach, and it’s every beach: Rehoboth, Lewes, Ocean City, Chincoteague, Chatham, Gloucester, Cape May.  It’s the one consistent thing beyond the sand and the water; that there will be houses adorned with stars, usually red but sometimes blue.  Or, maybe it’s every beach in the Mid-Atlantic and New England since I don’t think I’ve ever seen a house with a star in Florida or California.

So, first and foremost, what does a star on a house mean?  And have you ever seen them outside the east coast?  In a non-beach area?

And once you’ve answered that, what does an electric candle in the window mean?

38 comments

1 Steadfast Warrior { 08.06.13 at 8:13 am }

Hmmmm. I’m not sure, but stars are a common nautical theme reflecting the North star which was used to guide sailors at sea.

Electric candles are a touch of sensibility I think. Especially if they have kids or pets. Not as pretty as the real thing but less likely to catch your curtains on fire. :P

2 Magpie { 08.06.13 at 8:23 am }

There’s a kind of house star that is actually functional – it’s the end of a bolt tying two sides of a brick building together. http://activerain.com/blogsview/2126096/star-bolts-they-aren-t-just-decoration-

I wonder if the decorative stars aren’t just an affectation drawn from that source. And spread virally because they’re pretty.

3 Heather { 08.06.13 at 8:32 am }

They are all over the place where I live (Southern Tier of NY, rural farm area no where near the coast) and I believe it started as Magpie mentioned but now is more of a good luck charm on houses and barns. I see them mostly on houses but also on a lot of barns.
I have no idea about the electric candles.

4 a { 08.06.13 at 8:46 am }

They’re just decoration – here at least. Out in flyover country. Where there are no oceans. Just a few rivers not even very close to where I see the rural houses with stars on them…

You know what else happens out here that I just learned about? Barn quilts. Just because. http://www.barnquiltinfo.com/

5 A.M.S. { 08.06.13 at 8:54 am }

http://www.westlakebayvillageobserver.com/read/2012/03/06/the-tradition-of-burning-a-candle-in-the-window

It’s traditionally a sign of welcome, a way of guiding someone back home, or an indication of good news.

As for stars on houses, I wonder if it is similar to the earthquake bolts on houses in Charleston, SC. After an earthquake in the late 1800s, bolts were added to houses to strengthen/repair them and decorative plates were put on the walls to cover them.

Beyond that, this was the only information I could find on them that went beyond “just a decoration” http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/midatl/con0820121730582.html

6 Astral { 08.06.13 at 8:58 am }

I’ve read that it was for structural support, good luck or someone was in the war.

7 Jennifer { 08.06.13 at 9:25 am }

I’ve seen them in more rural parts of Virginia and West Virginia.

8 KeAnne { 08.06.13 at 10:30 am }

A lot of houses in our neighborhood have them, and we’re about 2 hours from the nearest beach. I always assumed it meant something religious.

9 Catwoman73 { 08.06.13 at 10:32 am }

The stars- I see them all over Ontario, but I have no idea if they have meaning.

I always thought the candle in the window was a traditional way to guide someone home after a period of absence.

10 Tigger { 08.06.13 at 10:35 am }

I don’t know about on houses, but there was a house on one of our main back roads when I lived in the country that had a metal star on their gate. A gated road…in the middle of the country…with no one around for MILES. Mom always told me it meant a witch lived there. :) And no, I’m not near a beach. I’m roughly 8 hours from the nearest beach.

A quick search brought up this on stars that are on houses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnstar

A candle in the window is often a sign of waiting for a loved one, or missing them, most often soldiers. It’s one of those reasons why we light candles for those missing in the community, for loss.

11 Wolfers { 08.06.13 at 10:46 am }

I’m not sure- I have seen stars all over on my road trips- including nothern Texas, Kansas, Utah, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, many Southern states, New England, etc… Personally, I think it’s decorations- since I did ask some folks who have stars on their houses- and they say they like the look of it, Seems popular from Martha Stewart, and other county decorations (and beach decorations). Personally, I’d get a star if I had a house- I too like the look of the star.

12 anon { 08.06.13 at 11:02 am }

The star means they are from Texas

13 loribeth { 08.06.13 at 11:12 am }

@Catwoman — really? I’m in Ontario & I have never seen or heard of this. Maybe I’m just not that observant. ;)

14 Katherine A { 08.06.13 at 11:29 am }

I don’t live anywhere near an ocean, but I do live close to a large Amish/Mennonite population (it is not an entirely uncommon sight to see buggies and horses hitched at the local lumber and supply shops). Where I live, the stars are very common on houses and barns and are generally called “Amish Barn Stars”. It seems from what I’ve gathered that the stars came over with the Amish/Mennonite groups from Germany and each color has a meaning. These days, I think more “worldly” outsider people have the barn stars on their houses in my area than people who actually belong to the Amish orders. The people I know who have them just think they’re a pretty, sort of country-style decoration.

15 KeAnne { 08.06.13 at 11:38 am }

@anon that was my first thought, but there are way too many stars in my ‘hood for them all to be from Texas.

16 Chickenpig { 08.06.13 at 12:10 pm }

I’m sorry, but they’re just decoration. The reason why you see them more near the beach, or why I see them EVERYwhere around where I live is that people near a beach or in colonial NE (apparently) go in for that Americana themed kitsch.

However, when my husband and I were house hunting we would say “Staaaar Peeeeeople staaaar peeeeeeople” every time we were in a neighborhood with a lot of star houses. So….maybe you’re on to something? They’ve all been assimilated.

17 It Is What It Is { 08.06.13 at 12:29 pm }
18 Monica { 08.06.13 at 12:49 pm }

They are in Ohio also.

My mom said it means those people are nice. !!!?? What?? Needless to say – I don’t have one on my house ;)

19 k { 08.06.13 at 1:03 pm }

http://www.mybluestarflag.com/about-2/
This is the kind of star that means someone has a loved one serving in the military. We have a lot of these around here. Just a star on the house though? I think just decorative.

20 liljan98 { 08.06.13 at 2:18 pm }

I only ever noticed stars on houses in Nova Scotia, CAN and I think also in Maine, USA, when I was travelling there a few years ago. We were wondering about it ourselves. One day we stopped at a beautiful church (in Nova Scotia, I think) and we asked the really nice sexton there about the star. According to him it’s to represent the house owners heritage or allegiance with the Acadian, who were the original French settlers in this part of North America. They also have their own flag, which is the french flag with a gold star in one corner. If you google this you will find the same story on various sites, but no “official” source like wikipedia, so I still don’t know if it’s really true. But it made and still makes sense to me :)

21 HereWeGoAJen { 08.06.13 at 2:43 pm }

At Christmas, a candle in the window is a tradition, mainly South American I believe, that symbolizes the whole “no room at the inn” thing. If you have a candle in your window, it means that you are inviting Mary and Joseph to stay at your house if there is no room at the inn. I’ve always thought that is such a beautiful tradition and we put candles in our windows at Christmas.

My parents have a Texas star on their house (in Texas) and my neighbor has year round candles though.

22 Another Dreamer { 08.06.13 at 3:34 pm }

I don’t know if there’s a traditional meaning, but here they’re purely decorative. Sorry! Some of us might find personal meanings in them though. I find the star to be symbolic, and have wanted one for awhile… just didn’t want to pay for it right now, lol.

23 Kristin { 08.06.13 at 4:04 pm }

I think it is a Southern thing, too. I live in Roanoke, VA (a good 5 hours from the closest beach) and they are everywhere. Might also because Roanoke calls itself the Star City of the South. But I think it is more of a country thing.

24 nonsequiturchica { 08.06.13 at 5:17 pm }

Sorry, but stars on houses are just decorations. It’s a big thing in the Northeast- but not just near the water.

Electric candles are traditionally used as Christmas decorations in the Northeast. We brought some in the move and used them this past year- my husband really likes the look.

25 Guera { 08.06.13 at 8:47 pm }

I see them all over my part of the country and I am at least 15 hours away from the nearest ocean. I think they are just decoration but I want to believe they have a unique, meaningful origin. Ultimately I think they mean what each family intends for it to mean for them.

26 Mer { 08.06.13 at 10:16 pm }

I live in the greater Philly area, and was told soon after moving here that they are an Amish thing that has grown in popularity to the point that now people put them on houses because they like them. Our kids like to say that the Sneeches (Dr. Seuss) live in houses with stars.

I’ve always heard that the lights in the window year round are a way to show you have loved ones serving in the military that are in your heart and mind.

27 Justine { 08.06.13 at 10:30 pm }

Candles in the window are supposed to be a welcome to travelers. They don’t mean that any more, though; now it’s “I’m trying to make my house look colonial and quaint.” The stars are Amish in origin, as far as I know: http://theopenscroll.blogspot.com/2010/08/amish-barn-stars-and-mysteries-of.html … but now just decoration. Because people are trying to be quaint.

28 Jen { 08.07.13 at 1:16 am }

The stars are purely decorative. They are hugely popular in rural and rural coastal areas.

If there once was a symbolic meaning form them in long gone in the pages of Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs.

They were very hot in the decorating community a some time ago and though you still see them a lot on/in country “theme” decorated homes, they have started to wane in popularity in recent times.

Take it from someone who is obsessed with all things home decorating.

29 Kelly { 08.07.13 at 1:56 am }

Barn stars are extremely common here in Indiana! They’re everywhere. Every other house you drive by may have a star on it or various out buildings. Personally, to me, it’s that added country charm. I do know it was once a symbol to ward off bad spirits and to bring good luck to your home. I personally have a fetish. There’s a barn star of some sort in almost every room of my home. It’s almost a staple for country rustic decor. Ironically, I do not have one outside yet! And my house was designed to look like a barn :)

30 Kimberly { 08.07.13 at 4:17 am }

I’ve asked this question of so many people with no answer so I’m in the same boat as you. But they are everywhere here (maybe because I live on an island) and other than “it’s a nice decoration for the house” I have received no other explanation.

31 Catwoman73 { 08.07.13 at 7:27 am }

@loribeth- Yes! We went camping on the weekend, and on our drive to the park, I made a comment to hubby about all the stars on houses (mostly because I don’t really like how they look). So strange that you haven’t seen it, too!

32 Formerly known as Denver Laura { 08.07.13 at 9:44 am }

In Denver, a lot fo the mid-century modern homes (i.e. 1950′s) have giant metal stars hanging on the front for decoration. Most of those houses are owned by WWII generation. I think it’s a patriotic thing and hipsters haven’t moved in those houses yet to take them down.

Being from the South, the candle in the window was for “no room at the inn” during the advent season. Each of the front windows had one. I do know that the POW/MIA groups have a “table ceremony” that is very symbolic.
From the ceremony:

We set the table for one and acknowledge its meaning.

The yellow ribbon on the vase represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand, with unyielding determination, a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight.
A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.

The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The glass is inverted. They cannot toast with us this night.

The chair is empty. They are not here.
The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
Let us pray to the supreme commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks.
Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices.
May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.

33 Brid { 08.07.13 at 11:55 pm }

I like to think they have great meaning! I don’t want to believe that all meaning is lost in our age or culture to commerce, or Martha Stewart (no offence, I love my house to be pretty too). But I cannot believe we live in a world where meaning has fallen away. If a person puts a star above their window, I always want to believe, perhaps naively, that they have their own special meaning for having it there… not just because they are so affected to want their house to appear a certain way. Even then, perhaps, it’s still a nod to the aesthetic. Whatever… sigh…
Ps to Formerly known as Denver Laura… I love your comment

34 From Ontario { 09.25.13 at 11:21 pm }

Barn Stars are everywhere in Rural Southern Ontario, where I live. It is a sign of good luck, much like a horseshoe over a door if you have one on your house and different colours mean different things… for example black means “protection”. They have a rustic charm and are becoming very popular. Said to have an Amish or Pennsylvania area origin.

35 E.Karlsen { 10.25.13 at 8:44 am }

Someone many years ago mentioned to me, that star placed on houses was a sign, that the lost a son in the war(civil war ?)Is that correct, or do nobody know ?

36 gemini6361 { 12.25.13 at 9:20 pm }

Barn stars have several meanings during revolutionary war meant someone was serving against the crown did not last long because britih soldiers just burnt those homes. German-american farmers believed it brought good luck.and buildings put a metal rod through the house to strengthen it and the end was made a star decoratively today it is mostly decorative except in farm areas.

37 blah { 04.25.14 at 9:38 pm }

It means an eastern star lives there. Some call them witches. Some of them even have a star on the wall inside their homes (seen it). The candles let other masons know someone in the house is a mason, so yes, they are for “travellers” who are “coming home”. Many people in the church in my town are in the o.e.s./ masonic order. And many of them also have those stars on their homes. There are masonic neighborhoods, usually close to a lodge. Not everyone in the neighborhood may be a mason or eastern star, but some like to live around each other for various reasons. It must be a lot of masons who live near the beach where u are. Witches and warlocks like tides. #thatisall

38 blah { 04.25.14 at 9:52 pm }

SN: there is a lot of water-based magic. Don’t be afraid. There is no power but God. He is simply letting them do their thing to be the resistance needed to fulfill his plan. Nothing they can do without God purposing it for the time being. That’s why we need Him. The war is in our heart/ mind. Thus, a spiritual war. While wars that happen in the physical realm are the “rumors of wars”. We will all be judge according to our works and we’ve all practicef sorcerery in our lives (or will) even if we didn’t know. The bible says that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. It’s just doing ur own thing for ur own self and pleasure without caring if it’s God’s will or not. but some people are reeeally deep in witchcraft. To the extreme. They have stars on their houses or inside. Stars represent knowlede and light. However, all. Stars reflect light from one source: the one true God. They think it’d from some other source! And are blind to the fact that all light is if God. And stars do not produce their own light. Hallelujah!

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