People across the globe celebrate the ringing in of a new year in a variety of ways, but did you know that candles have, historically, played a leading role in several cultures? No? Well, don’t worry, we’ll tell you all about it! Before you ask, no, this is not some sort of candle-based “new year, new you” diet and exercise plan. As much as we love our candles, please don’t eat them. Okay, now that we’ve made that clear, let’s dive into the good stuff, shall we?
There is speculation as to when exactly this tradition started, but most historians trace it back to colonial times in both America and Europe. At that time, candles were mainly used as a light source, typically made from animal fat sometimes with herbal additives to improve the scent (shocking that the smell of burning animal blubber wasn’t appealing). One of these additives was the waxy fruit of the bayberry bush, which gave the candles a crisp, clean fragrance and tinted the wax a lovely olive green (fancy!). That being said, incorporating these additives into candles prolonged the making process (therefore jacking up the price), so these bayberry candles were used only on very special occasions... like celebrating the start of a brand new year.
Legend has it that one should light a bayberry candle when the sun sets on December 31st, allowing it to burn throughout the night (hmm... that’s not the safest idea). The key is to not snuff out the flame but to let the wick burn down completely. If this happens, and the candle burns all the way before going out on its own, it was said that you and your household would be blessed in the new year with health and prosperity. (Yep... it was literally a candle good luck charm)
Bonus points if you already knew this little gem— there is actually a poem that goes hand-in-hand with this superstition;
“A Bayberry Candle | Burned to the Socket | Brings Food and Larder | And Gold to the Pocket.” (cliff note: light candle, get good things)
It was also believed that you could... well... ride on the coattails of someone else’s good fortune if you were to gift them with a bayberry candle. The act of presenting someone with the potential of a prosperous year was seen as a true act of friendship and kindness and thus earned a bit of good luck thrown the gifter’s way as well. Kind of like buying someone a lottery ticket with the hope that the winner might throw you a bone (or a yacht) as a thank you. Make sense?
More fun New Year’s candle traditions stress the importance of certain colors of candles based on what you most want to manifest in the upcoming year. Burning a red candle, for instance, is meant to bring love into your life while yellow candles are said to attract wealth (excuse us while we light a dozen yellow candles). Like with all superstitions, there is little evidence to prove that any of these work but, to this day, many people still carry on the candle traditions passed down through the generations.
Now, because we’re friends, we’ll share some hot new information just off the presses. Recent rumors around town are hinting that burning a Kalamazoo Candle Co. candle will bring you the BEST luck yet— a lovely-smelling home and the knowledge that what you’re burning is delightfully free of chemicals. Because, let’s face it, starting off a fresh year with a house full of toxins doesn’t set the best tone, does it?
So, whether you’re looking to wow party guests with your knowledge of New Year’s candle lore, looking to attract some good fortune, or just simply hoping to try to shake off the lingering bad memories of the last couple of years (same), we hope this upcoming year brings you health and happiness. And, just in case you want to try your hand at a couple of these traditions, please remember to dip that wick prior to turning in for the night. We might not know it all, but we promise that a house fire is not the most enjoyable way to start 2022.
For more candle tips, tricks, and insight into who we are, click here!