We’ve been making a lot of candles this winter. Thanks to a generous hand-me-down from my mother-in-law – 15 lbs of beeswax! – and a recommitment to avoiding those careless trips into town for one or two things, like lamp oil, we’re been needing to just ‘make do’ for a night or two with candles only. And so we’re spending more time pouring wax into molds (read that: toilet paper rolls and grapefruit peels) and adjusting the blend of waxes in our family candles.
We have about 5 lbs of paraffin, which is inexpensive and adds burning-life to the quick burning beeswax without reducing either the scent or the beauty of the latter. Church candles – and ideally, home-altar candles – must be 51% beeswax at minimum. Our current batch is closer to 80%. They smell amazing and I love the connection with these essential creatures, the link to their nourishment of the green-growing earth. Beeswax candles remind us that spring will come again to the Earth, and as they, like tiny Christs, wait to rise again and renew the world, I burn their votives in the dark nights of winter and wait as well.
This Candlemas we hope to make it into town for early Mass, with homemade tapers and hope-filled prayer for an early spring and a renewed greening of the world.
This winter has been hard on our little homestead in some ways. The deep cold, ice storms, car troubles: we lost our guineas to the cold, and one of the younger chickens seems damaged beyond hope – frost damage on her feet. We’re figuring out this transition to sustainability and home-based incomes, building new rhythms within the home, and longing for the warmth and light of springtime! In Candlemas we greet the growing light, welcome the warmth that is not-yet strong enough to overcome the cold, but is growing slowly.
This year on candlemas we will bless and decorate our candles, set them out in sand on the altar, pray for warmth and spring and abundance in the new year. We’ll drape the Infant of Prague in something lovely – blue or gold silk maybe, or red wool..and put him in a place of honor. And when the night comes, we’ll burn a candle through the night before the Theotokos to keep away the wild night creatures and the spirits of darkness that lurk in unswept corners and hidden trails.
There are so many celebrations in this season! We welcome light and Christ in Candlemas, but St. Brigid’s Day is today’s feast-day, and Imbolc is a similar, beautiful, preChristian welcoming of the light. How do you greet the last full month of winter? What does the coming of Spring mean to you?