Candles, Candlemas, and Homemade Jar Candles

This being only the second of my bi-weekly blog posts, you may have noticed that I have interpreted ‘bi-weekly’ a bit loosely. Actually, quite loosely. In my defence, I have filled up my procrastination time with an abundance of worthy endeavours, many of which may constitute the subject of a future blog post.

Meanwhile the season of Lent has come upon us, and with it the reminder that we are on a pilgrimage of faith and are called to respond to God’s graces in the everyday… which includes building up some good habits! Ah, so many to choose from… {distant look of a distracted writer}.

As a dear mentor (and reader!) has reminded me, all it takes to write is to put pen to paper — a gracious and encouraging way of saying “It’ll get done if you just do it.” Onward, then!

Lately I have been enjoying a lighted candle at my evening meal. Candles are just so beautiful! A candle adds a sense of warmth to a cold winter evening. It’s flickering light gives life to a solitary table, while unifying a table of friends. It can make one feel like curling up in a big cushy chair and perhaps simply enjoying the silence.

The candle I currently have on-the-go is 100% beeswax and handmade by a friend, and it smells simply delightful. Really, beeswax is the most lovely, delicate scent imaginable, and brings memories of summer into a cold February day.

February is the month in which Christmas definitively ends with the feast of Candlemas — also The Presentation of Our Lord — on February 2nd. In the pre-1962 Roman Catholic calendar, Christmas was celebrated from December 25th until this day, which seems like quite a long time to keep up a live tree! Nonetheless, many families still keep to this admirable tradition, in one form or another.

The name ‘Candlemas’ comes from the tradition of taking candles to church on this day to be blessed. These are then used throughout the year to remind us of Christ, our light and salvation. I can only imagine the lovely little family traditions that could spring out of this, such as lighting a ‘Candlemas candle’ for special events like baptismal days, birthdays, and Sunday dinners… even processions through the backyard on special feasts! Of course, we needn’t only have our candles blessed at Candlemas, but can ask for this throughout the year.

This quote from the Liturgy of the Hours for February 2 beautifully describes the sacramental nature of blessed candles:

“Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.”

~from a sermon by St. Sophronius, bishop

So, what if I want to burn a candle every evening? (gasp, how extravagant!) Beeswax candles are expensive! (Worth every penny, but still, not very frugal for the everyday.)

Homemade jar candles to the rescue! These can be made with tallow (which is just rendered beef fat) or rendered lamb fat, and they work out beautifully. You just melt the tallow, pour it into your jar, and let it harden enough to stick your wick in — wait until it is about the consistency of butter, or even a little harder. Then you poke a skewer in the middle to make a hole and put your wick in (which you have pre-cut to fit the height of the jar). Then you pour in a little more melted tallow – just enough to seal up the hole around the wick. Screw the lid on while the jar is still warm, label it and store it in a cool place, and it’ll keep nicely for about a year.

My brother and his wife discovered this method and have made beautiful candles this way, and it is certainly much more economical than buying all of your candles. You can also get creative by using different kinds of jars and decorating them.

So, onward through the season of Lent and this last stretch of winter! While the season of Christmas is long over, the light of Christ ought to burn ever brighter in our hearts — and perhaps in a symbolic way on our tables — as we pilgrimage to Easter… and Spring! I leave you with another fine quote from the February 2 Liturgy of the Hours, this time a hymn:

“As by the sun in splendor / The flags of night are furled, / So darkness shall surrender / To Christ who lights the world, / To Christ the star of day, / Who once was small and tender, / A candle’s gentle ray.”

2 thoughts on “Candles, Candlemas, and Homemade Jar Candles”

  1. A beautiful & deeply thoughtful post, Cindy! We love Candles too! And, at this time of year, light is precious & we, too, as pilgrims are called to become the LIGHT!

    1. So true, Mary, we are called to be the Light of Christ! Your home is so beautiful, with such lovely candles, artwork, and an incredibly cozy and peaceful atmosphere. I look forward sitting in your comfortable living room with a cup of coffee or tea this Spring, basking in light in your home!

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