The Bayberry Candle Tradition

This bayberry candle comes from a friend
so on Christmas eve burn it down to the end.
For a bay
Tapered Bayberry Candles (Set of 8)berry candle burned to the socket,
will bring joy to the heart and gold to the pocket. –
traditional poem

It was Christmas 2001 that I received two bayberry taper candles as a gift and read the above poem tucked into the box. The candles were authentic bayberry, not scented artificially. They looked rather crude and not factory made. After reading more about the tradition, I decided to light mine on New Year’s Eve. It has become our family tradition. We sometimes put them in the candlesticks and light them for Christmas dinner or we light them on New Year’s Eve.

First made by early colonists who boiled real bayberries to get the wax, bayberry candles are considered by many to be the original scented candles in America. Because they were difficult and expensive to make, they were highly prized and reserved for special occasions. Tradition holds that when one receives a bayberry candle as a gift from a friend, then burns the candle on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve (allowing candle to burn itself out), they will receive good luck, good health, and much wealth. That translates into the popular saying that “burning a bayberry candle from tip to socket puts luck in the home and gold in the pocket.”

When the first settlers arrived on our shores, every moment was one of survival. Everything was in short supply including candles. Generally, candles were made of tallow (animal fat) which tend to smoke and give off an odor. They can turn rancid as well. It didn’t take long for the early colonists to discover that the abundant bayberry bush had berries that would give off a waxy residue when boiled. They learned to collect and save the  bayberry wax that would rise to the surface of the water and make them into taper candles. The bayberry tapers burned longer and cleaner than the tallow version. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of bayberries to make enough wax to make a single taper. These bayberry tapers were a real treasure to the colonists who saved them for special occasions. To have a bayberry candle was a luxury to be saved and relished. It became the tradition to burn your bayberry candle on Christmas or New Years eve to bring blessings of abundance in the coming year. It is not known who actually came up with the traditional bayberry candle poem. But the tradition continues to this day.

Depending on where you buy them, bayberry candles may look rustic in appearance. Bayberry wax is incredibly difficult to work with which is why you may not find them in very larger sizes. Authentic bayberry candles will be more expensive then bayberry “scented” candles.

6 thoughts on “The Bayberry Candle Tradition

  1. You know how much I love rituals, so I am adding this to mine for this Christmas Eve when my dear 85-yo mom and I will be in St. Augustine. Many thanks for sharing something so special to you.

  2. I LOVE stories like these. I enjoy knowing where our traditions come from. There is a store in our area that sells hand made candles from natural ingredients. I’ll have to check them out for bayberry candles. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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