Yesterday we untrimmed the tree. I sure hated to see it go and I took the candle stubs and melted them in a pan, then I took a string and dipped it in the wax, so I made a candle. It sure was bumpy but it worked.
Shirley Jean (Ina’s granddaughter), January 1937
Shirley Jean would have been eleven when she and her parents spent this Christmas of 1936 at the farm with Ina and Julian. The tree was lit by small white candles in holders that were clipped to the branches. Of an evening, they would light the tree for a few minutes, sit together to admire it, then blow out the candles. So, Shirley Jean is saying that she made a new candle by melting the stubs of the candles that adorned the tree.
After Christmas, we all put everything away and it’s business as usual. While the holiday / celebration mode just can’t go on forever, I like to think that Christmas as an event leaves me better than it found me – that some bit of it lingers to brighten my heart during the dark days of January. Candles are a good example.
This year, burning candles is on my “to do” list. I have a burgeoning collection of candles – from the partially burned to brand new. This year I have resolved to burn up at least the partially used. It’s not fun to be a saver of used candles, but I was raised in a household that did just that.
This fading photo was taken on Christmas Eve in 1957 or so. It shows my dad lighting the candles on the buffet table – candles he made. I was just a little girl, but perhaps Daddy meant to be sharing the experience with me because I knew what was happening with every step. I remember saving waxed milk and cream cartons for the molds. On candle-making day, Daddy heated wax in an old pan and poured it into the molds. The candles were red and green – coloring provided by old color crayons melted in the wax. The coloring was really not intense enough. Today we’d think nothing of buying a couple of boxes of crayons in primary colors just for this project, but a new box of crayons was a big deal in my ‘50’s world. It seems like ice chips in the hot wax left irregularly-shaped pockets in the candle. I remember Daddy tearing the waxed cardboard off the hardened wax. As a finishing touch, he whipped hot wax until it was frothy and poured it over the candles.
When Christmas was over, we wrapped the candles in tissue paper and stored them with the Christmas decorations. Every year we burned them just a little. And then they looked old and we didn’t get them out any more, but we still had them wrapped in tissue paper for years. Maybe not all families save such things, but mine did.
Once I suggested to Mother that we should make candles again. “It was a big mess!” she said, and I knew I was talking to the clean-up person. I could just see the little specks of wax, frustratingly adhered to stove top, counter, windows, maybe even curtains. And that doesn't even count the cooking utensils. Now I knew why we had never done that fun project again. My suggestion had fallen on deaf ears. That was that.
Mother loved candles, though. She burned them sometimes, and she hoarded quite a number of them. I think she kept a certain number on hand in case of emergency – because, you know, the electricity used to go out with some regularity, and sometimes it was not immediately restored. Candles, matches, and flashlights were necessities. KW