“A bayberry candle burned to the socket puts luck in the home, food in the larder and gold in the pocket.”
My mother-in-law burned a bayberry taper candle down to the socket every Christmas Day; her family believed it brought luck for the coming year.
We adopted the tradition in our house, until it became almost impossible to find bayberry taper candles. Taper candles are out of vogue generally, and bayberry candles even more so. Imagine how pleased I was, then, when one of my book club members gave me bayberry taper candles for Christmas. (She might have been a little taken aback by how pleased I was with the gift.) When I got home from my book club meeting, I happily placed a bayberry candle in my nativity scene once again.
I did a little research, and I discovered that my mother-in-law’s version of the tradition differed from the original. According to on-line sources, the candles were burned on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, not Christmas Day like my mother-in-law did. And my mother-in-law lit her candle on Christmas morning and let it burn throughout the day, whereas the traditional bayberry candles burned on Christmas Eve evening, and the flame had to continue burning into Christmas Day to carry the luck forward; same for New Year’s Eve.
I thought, ever so briefly, about changing my tradition to align with the legend, but then I dismissed the idea. Traditions—the good ones, anyway—are really rituals, and rituals—the good ones, anyway—warm the soul, revive memories of loved ones and centre us in what is really important.
If I were to light a bayberry candle on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, it would feel wrong, like a betrayal. It would not warm my soul.
So I’ll keep on lighting a bayberry candle on Christmas morning. When I do, it will warm my soul, it will remind me of my mother-in-law, and it will centre me in what is really important. And that, I suspect, will bring me more luck than anything.