Kindle Some Candlelight

Growing up in a family with regular fire-making rituals, I inherited an obsession with flames. When the outside temperature dropped, it was time to place newspaper, kindling, and wood in the fireplace and watch it burn. Now I live in an historic Parisian apartment with seven stone and marble fireplaces. All of them sealed shut. In the dark winter months there is only one thing to do. Between four and five in the afternoon, as the sun is setting, I begin lighting candles.

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Recently, I became aware this is not a tradition others follow as consistently as I do. On a dark December afternoon, my friend Lesli invited a group of women to her apartment in Paris for “wine and unwind” time. This is a time of bringing friends into your home, opening a bottle of something, and letting conversation flow.

Lesli’s apartment is furnished with a spectacular crystal chandelier from another century. While admiringly it, I noticed it was outfitted with candles! They had never been lit since Lesli moved in three years before. She needed little encouragement from me. I climbed on a chair, broke off the old wicks and re-lit them. In full glow, this antique beauty became a Versailles-worthy show stopper.

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candlelight transformation

Her apartment also had six or eight candles in heavy glass jars from the oldest candle making store in Paris. Cire Trudon is the most prestigious French wax manufacturer in existence since 1643. The wicks were deeply buried in hardened wax. It took some digging and trimming, but those, too, were put into burning use. Soon the living room was alight with candle glow, “coupes de champagne” in everyone’s hand, and easy banter among friends.

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trimmed and untrimmed wick lengths

Candlelight warms up any room and the atmosphere immediately turns festive and ambient. Some people believe candles are messy and never use them except on special occasions. As requested by a few friends in France, here is basic candle etiquette to keep your home aglow anytime.

  • Always trim the wick before relighting a candle. It will break off in your fingers at the perfect starting point. Otherwise, smoke from a too-long wick blackens walls, ceilings and pollutes the room.
  • Prevent excessive dripping messes by keeping lit candles out of drafts. This seems obvious. Also for safety reasons.
  • If you light a lot of candles, it’s good to use a candlesnuffer for extinguishing rather than blowing them out. This reduces smoke pollution and prevents spraying wax on walls and surfaces.
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candlesnuffer
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held over wick 5-10 seconds
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voilà! no smoking candle or sprayed wax

When engaging in regular candle usage, there are other interesting tips to know.

  • Never display new taper or column candles in your home with white, unburnt wicks. If you leave wicks un-blackened they look like the store display, not something your actually use for home ambience and decoration. White wicks can be lit briefly and extinguished, unless using the candle right away. Votive candles are an exception. Light them when ready to use.
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votive monks
  • Don’t burn candles during daylight. Candles are for darkness only, morning or evening. Breakfast or coffee before sun-up with candlelight is a mellow way to start the day. Evening is natural timing. A candle-lit bath is self-care luxury. The long days of summer are for being outside so save candle rituals for the hibernating months.

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    breakfast candles with match holder
  • When a drippy mess occurs, as it will, consider it part of the experience. A plastic spatula gently scrapes wax from hard surfaces. Hot water on a washrag does the rest, melting it away.
  • One way to prolong the life of column candles is to gently press around the outside rim as it is burning, folding the soft wax in toward the wick. This will help the rim melt into the wax pool and keep it level. If the wax pool becomes too deep, pour the liquid out right after extinguishing. Occasionally trim the hollowed out part of the candle to make it flush with the wick using a cutting board and a large knife. The candle is shorter, but it will burn better.
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    wrought iron candelabra, paris
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    best of electricity and candlepower, colorado

    I can’t explain how fire and candle lore became second nature to me. But I do know our “indoor lives” are  enhanced by strategic candlelight. It’s a personal, creative choice for the selection of candle holders, shapes, and colors. Almost any non-flammable container will hold some type of candle. Oil lamp candlelight is a no fuss no muss option, except for needing to occasionally replenish the oil. The rule of thumb is buy good candles, not the least expensive ones. You get better candle power return with the investment.

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    mix regular and oil burning candlelight
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    coffee table candles
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    shadow play

    So on these dark days and long nights of winter, kindle a candle, or two, or three at home on a regular basis. Enjoy some flickering flames with family or friends. After all, ‘tis the season.

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    hohoho

    Premier candles: www.ciretrudon.com

    Cire Trudon USA, Inc. 358 Fifth Ave., Suite 901 NY, NY 10001

    In France: 78, rue de Seine 75006 Paris

    26 thoughts on “Kindle Some Candlelight

    1. Pingback: The Grown-Up Table | A Taste of Mind

    2. Well done, Wendy. Patricia was adamant about “blackening” the wicks before the company arrived. It’s now a cherished ritual. Your photos are lovely. Thanks.

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      • I’ve heard from several others who know the “blackening wicks” etiquette. I also learned something new about why to do this. One of my friends was taught by her mother that it “prevents strife and discord at the dinner table”. None of us wants to be responsible for that! So, as you light a new wick and blow it out remember that you will be treating dinner guests to a peacefully delicious meal…

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    3. I am unlikely to ever purchase candles from Cire Trudon, but j’adore reading their descriptions of candles. Case in point: le Bartolomé – “The bow of a Spanish sailboat reaches the amber shores of Hispaniola, propelled by a soft, wood-tinged breeze that spreads a message of peace and calmness across the lush Caribbean island.”
      Amazing.

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    4. Really enjoyed this installment…love candles! Additionally, the beautiful luminaria is so special this time of year. I line my walkway and stairs to our front porch which is very festive to guests.

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      • It’s lovely to use a pathway of candles to greet your guests, Susie. To me, candles are like scarves. You really can’t have too many of them. There is always a way to use them and keep things beautiful.

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    5. I love your observations and this one was tellement illuminant!
      So glad to hear your views on unused white wicks… so mal élevé; alors – always a peeve of mine.
      The illumination of the gorgeous crystal chandelier was lovely to see – makes me want to travel back in time. Or at least de-electrify my own.
      December in Paris must be magical and I love my virtual visits via your words and photos.
      Looking forward to la prochaine.
      Joyeuse fête et meilleurs souhaits pour la nouvelle année Wendy!

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