A home altar or family altar is a small shrine kept in the home of a Western Christian family. Home altars often contain a cross or crucifix, in addition to a Bible, a daily devotional, and prayer beads, among other religious articles specific to the individual's Christian denomination, for example, the Anglican Rosary for Episcopalians, the Small Catechism for Lutherans, or an image of the Divine Mercy for Roman Catholics.
Home altars usually are adorned with a couple of votive candles and they also sometimes have a small vase of flowers. In many Christian households, individual family members, or the family as a whole, gathers to pray at the home altar. Christian hymns may also be sung there. Family altars are also used to promote the "development or intensification of personal piety and godly conduct." One writer in The Christian Treasury traces the origin of the family altar to Abraham erecting one in the Old Testament (Genesis 12:7).
- Nelson, Paul A. "Home Altars". Immanuel Lutheran Church. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
- Skrade, Kristofer (2006). The Lutheran Handbook on Marriage. Augsburg Books. p. 84. ISBN 9780806652948.
Some Lutherans designate a special place in the home where they can focus during personal devotions. This space could include a Bible, candles, and small colored paraments or hangings that change according to the seasons of the church calendar.
- Hahn, Kimberly; Hasson, Mary (1996). Catholic Education. Ignatius Press. p. 312. ISBN 9780898705669.
One thing some families do is make a family altar with pictures of Jesus, candles, a crucifix, and other religious articles. This family altar reminds the family of the importance of prayer.
- Werner, Michael S. (2001). Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico. Taylor & Francis. p. 161. ISBN 9781579583378.
- Philips, Samuel. The Christian Home. Library of Alexandria. p. 163. ISBN 9781465503350.
- Heinicke, Martin (1917). The Lutheran Witness. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. p. 245.
When the woman in the home sings a Christian hymn, when the children go through the house singing the Word of God, when the family joins at the home altar to chant the praises of the Most High, then the Spirit of God presides over that home.
- Tucker, Karen B. Westerfield (27 April 2011). American Methodist Worship. Oxford University Press. p. 225. ISBN 9780199774159.
Every Methodist family ideally was "a sanctuary in which God is continually dwelling," and the family altar was considered the cornerstone for the development or intensification of personal piety and godly conduct.
- "The Family Altar Erected". The Christian Treasury. Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter, & Co. 1882. p. 199.
Abraham had such an altar, thus honouring God; and God honoured him.