Kindle Some Candlelight

I’m obsessed with flames. Growing up in a family with fire-making rituals, I come by this naturally. Wherever we lived, when the outside temperature dropped, it was time to lay wood in the fireplace and watch it burn. Now I live in a Parisian apartment with seven fireplaces. All of them sealed shut. In the dark winter months there is only one alternative. Between four and five in the afternoon, as the sun is setting, I begin lighting candles.


Recently, I became aware this is not a tradition others follow as consistently as I do. Earlier this month, on a dark December afternoon, my friend Lesli invited a group of women 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 happens to be furnished with a spectacular crystal chandelier from another century. Studying it admiringly, I noticed it was not electrified. It was outfitted with candles. They had never been lit since Lesli moved in three years before. She needed little encouragement from me. With partially burned candles already in place, I climbed on a chair and broke off the blackened wicks before re-lighting them. In full glow, this antique beauty became a Versailles-worthy show stopper. Although no “ugly duckling” before, it was now a stunning swan.

candlelight transformation

She also had six or eight candles in heavy glass jars from the oldest candle making store in Paris, Cire Trudon. This 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 ambient with candle glow, “coupes de champagne” in everyone’s hand, and easy banter among friends.

trimmed and untrimmed wick lengths

Everyone knows candlelight warms up any room. But for many people they are messy and off putting to use except on special occasions. If you are an infrequent candle lighter, a bit of know-how etiquette is what you need. For anyone inclined to light up the night with candles, here is a basic tutorial as requested by a few friends in France.

  • 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, but it’s really important to be aware of air currents where candles are burning. 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 spraying wax on walls and surfaces.
held over wick 5-8 seconds
voilà! no smoking candle or sprayed wax

Whether you engage in regular candle usage or not, there is other interesting etiquette to know.

  • Never display new candles [taper or column] with white, unburnt wicks. If you leave wicks un-blackened, they look like a store display rather than decorative home use. New candle wicks should be burned briefly and extinguished unless using the candle right away. [Votive candles are an exception.]
votive monks
  • Don’t burn candles during daylight. Candles are for darkness only, morning or evening. Breakfast before sun-up with candlelight is a mellow way to start the day. Evening is natural timing. A candle lit bath can be a regular luxury.

  • IMG_3062
    breakfast candles with ceramic match holder
  • When a drippy mess occurs, as it will, consider it part of the experience. A plastic spatula easily scrapes wax from hard surfaces. Hot water does the rest, melting it away.
  • As column-shaped candles burn down, empty the wax pool [while it is still liquid] right after extinguishing. As it burns deeper into the column, occasionally trim off the top flush with the wick, using a cutting board and a large knife. This prolongs a natural burning life until it becomes a stump ready to discard.
  • IMG_3124
    wrought iron candelabra, paris
    best of electricity and candlepower, colorado

    I can’t explain how fire and candle lore became second nature to me. But, I believe 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.

    mix regular and oil burning candlelight
    coffee table candles
    shadow play

    Light a candle or two at home tonight. Enjoy a few flickering flames with family or friends. After all, ‘tis the season.

    santa says ho ho ho & hippobirdday dar

    Premier candles:

    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.


      • 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…


    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.”


    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.


      • 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.


    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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