The Treasured Tradition of Burning a Bayberry Candle on Christmas Eve
Following a tradition shows an appreciation for past values and shares a wonderful sense of belonging to a special heritage. The burning of bayberry candles on Christmas Eve can be considered one of these treasured traditions. Believed to have originated during the colonial times, the bayberry candle is still being lit on Christmas Eve for the bringing of cheerful blessings. It is one which I remember doing growing up, and continue to do myself today.
The Bayberry Bush and Berry
The bayberry bush can be found growing abundantly in the sandy soils along the north eastern coast. The small berries of the fragrant shrub were noticed by the early settlers to be covered with a waxy coating. The plentiful clusters of bayberries on the five to seven foot shrubs were harvested by colonial Americans for the making of a better burning candle wax.
It was discovered the wax left by the boiling down of the berries and then skimmed off the top produced a cleaner and more pleasant smelling candle. The new fashioned candles were highly valued and offered a fresh alternative from the candle wax made out of animal fat. The process of collecting the bayberry wax was time consuming though and so the crafted candles were considered a fine indulgence and one which should be used sparingly. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve became a favorite time to burn the specialty candles.
The Bayberry Candle Poem
The appreciation for the rarity of the bayberry candles and the value placed on them caused the giving or the receiving of the candles to be thought of as a significant gesture of love and friendship. This history behind the bayberry candles formed the tradition to burn them on Christmas Eve and/or New Year’s Eve. Today, they are often purchased and shared with an accompanying tale and poem about the past and current beliefs of burning the bayberry candles.
The common verse found along with the sweet smelling candles is as follows,
“This bayberry candle comes from a friend,
so on Christmas Eve burn it to the end.
For a bayberry candle burned to the socket,
will bring joy to the heart, and gold to the pocket.”
Following a Treasured Tradition
Understanding why the tradition exists can bring new meaning to the practice of burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve. The routine of blindly following a tradition every year can make the custom of carrying it out lose its significance or possibly even forgotten.
Remembering and sharing why the candles were so special to begin with will make the following of the tradition a more heartfelt experience. The cherished meaning for the burning of bayberry candles will assure the tradition can continue to be passed down and be appreciated for many more years to come.
Please feel free to share your treasured tradition for Christmas in comments below.
And I hope you all have a blessed Christmas/holiday.
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