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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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