Did you know that if you burn a bayberry candle on Christmas Eve (or New Year’s Eve, according to some accounts) it is said to bring good luck for the coming year? The trick is burning it till it is gone, or goes out on its own, and using a real bayberry wax candle, and not a regular candle with bayberry fragrance added. This is what Bayberry Wax looks like in its raw form:
The early New England pioneers discovered that when the berries of a bayberry shrub are boiled, the waxy coating on them would float to the surface of the boiled water. This is what they used to make candles. They would skim the wax and collect it (yes, it takes a ton of berries) until they had enough to make candles. These days, real bayberry wax candles are rare due to the high cost of the wax. It is the only wax more expensive than beeswax, not to mention hard to come by.
Bayberry wax smells lightly herbal and a little floral, similar to beeswax. In fact, a little beeswax added to bayberry can make the wax burn more evenly and the candle less brittle. This pleasant scent delighted pioneers who were used to burning tallow candles (rendered from animal fat), which didn’t smell good. Thus, bayberry candles became a cherished possession, and did not have to have their odor covered over by the burning of incense. It’s funny how these days we predominantly light candles for scent and ambient lighting, when in the past candles actually smelled bad, but were necessary to light the darkness for reading or other activities after the sun went down. Bayberry wax began the evolution of scented candles!
The pioneers would often hand-dip bayberry candles in pairs, using a wick (usually make-shift from what they had access to) looped over a stick or branch and dipped repeatedly into the wax, and cooled. I have a more modern studio and have access to manufactured braided cotton wick, but otherwise that is just how I make hand-dipped bayberry candles for M Design Boutique. Here is how my hand-dipped bayberry candles look:
Another way to make candles, which was more rare but still done in pioneer days, is to use a mold. Here is an octagonal votive candle I made using pure bayberry wax:
This year, I will be offering more varieties of Bayberry Candles in M Design Boutique, and Spoiled Cowgirl by MDB. These make an excellent gift, and all will ship with the story of how to use them to bring good fortune for the coming year. Whether in a pair of tapers, a set of tea lights (one for each family member), or votives, there will be an affordable way to start this tradition in your holiday season.
Bring some history and magic to your holiday traditions this year with some Bayberry Candles!