My grandmother, Lillian McGlynn, ALWAYS burned a bayberry candle on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The Legend goes as follows: A Bayberry Candle burned to the socket brings Luck to the household, Food to the larder and Gold to the pocket. In Irish tradition, the candle needs to continue burning from one day into the next, so as to bring the good luck forward. My grandmother also told me this is why we eat ham on New Year’s rather than fowl – because a bird scratches backwards while the pig always roots forward!
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 tends 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 believed that you should light your bayberry candle on the eve of your holiday of choice and allow it to burn completely until it goes out on its own.
Bayberry wax remains one of the most time-consuming to produce and is also very soft, so it is generally mixed with another wax to make it firmer (such as beeswax). At Talisman, we sell a tealight candle which are perfect as they are 100% pure bayberry wax which won’t disfigure or bend easily as a formed candle might. They are also VERY safe to burn, and should go about 5-6 hours. However, burn times vary so I recommend that you light the candle around 9-10pm on the evening prior to ensure it won’t burn out prematurely – remember, you want it to burn INTO Christmas and/or New Year’s Day!