Back as far as I can remember, my grandfather burned a bayberry candle on New Year’s Eve. When I was old enough to become curious about this tradition of his, I asked him why.
He told me that he always burns a bayberry candle on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck in the new year. He went on to explain that it must be lit before midnight so that it starts in the old year and allowed to burn through to the new year. The candle has to burn until it goes out on its own and it must be bayberry.
Needless to say, that is a tradition that I have kept and really enjoy. I decided to look into the reason behind it a little more and this is what I found out.
It started in America in colonial times. Apparently, up until then, most candles were made from tallow (animal fat). They burned brightly but smelled bad and put out a lot of smoke. An experiment was done to extract wax from bayberries which were abundant in New England.
The experiment was successful and they found that the wax from bayberries was smokeless and fragrant. However, it took massive amounts of berries to get very little wax. Hence, bayberry candles became a luxury. They were saved to use on special occasions and generally set aside to use during the Christmas holidays.
Legend has it that on Christmas Eve or on New Year’s Eve, a bayberry candle was burned to bring prosperity and good fortune to the household in the new year. It was important that it was timed correctly so that the candle would not burn out before midnight.
It must be lit in one year and burn into the new one. The candle must also be allowed to burn out on its own. If the candle burned down completely and went out on its own, the household would see abundance in the new year.
The lighting of a bayberry candle is supposed to be accompanied by reciting the legendary poem.
“For a bayberry candle burned to the socket / will bring joy to the heart and gold to the pocket.”
I like the tradition of it. Bayberry candles can be difficult to find though. They can also make a nice gift with the legend and poem included.
Regardless of whether you decide to try it or not, I wish you all a prosperous and joyful new year.