Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Bayberry candles burned to the socket,

bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket!"

Burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve or on New Year's Eve is a tradition from colonial days.

Candles made from animal fat smoked and gave off an odor could be rancid.  In their explorations, they discovered the bayberry bush that was abundant along the Atlantic coast (pre coastal mansions).
The berries give off a waxy residue when boiled, and they collected that and realized they could make candles from that that burned longer and cleaner, and they smelled far better than animal tallow.   As you can imagine, the number of berries it would take to make one candle was numerous; therefore, the bayberry candles were burned on special occasions only, and so the Christmas and New Year's holidays were such occasions since they related to a new year of health and wealth.
Bayberry's botanical name is Myrica gale, and its foliage is said to be a natural insect repellent.  The fruit of one variety is an important crop in China, where is it sold fresh, dried, canned, and in juice and alcoholic beverages.  Denmark uses it to spice beer and snaps (schnapps).
So, as we begin the holiday season, matter what you are celebrating...

Christmas... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.  ~Freya Stark

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