What Day Do You Burn Bayberry Candles?

Bayberry candles are a type of candle made from the waxy berries of the bayberry shrub, which is native to eastern North America. Bayberries have a long history of use, dating back to colonial times in America. The bayberry plant was used by early American settlers for making candles, soaps, and wax. The popularity of bayberry candles stems from their aromatic fragrance and cultural symbolism.

Bayberries were likely first used by Native Americans tribes who discovered that the waxy coating on the small gray berries could be extracted to make candle wax. The early American colonists learned the skill of harvesting bayberries and candle-making from the Native tribes. Small homemade bayberry candles became commonplace in colonial households, providing light during the cold winter months when whale oil and tallow were scarce. The labor-intensive process of extracting the tiny amounts of wax from each berry imbued bayberry candles with additional meaning and value.

Over time, bayberry candles became a beloved American colonial tradition, representing home, hearth, generosity, and hospitality. The aromatic spicy-sweet scent of burning bayberry candles grew to symbolize the warmth and joy of Christmas and holiday gatherings. The folklore around bayberries states that a candle lit on Christmas eve and left to fully burn through the night will bring good luck and fortune in the coming year.

Symbolism and Folklore

Bayberry candles have long been associated with good fortune, holiday traditions, and protective powers. According to folklore, burning a bayberry candle inside the home on New Year’s Eve is thought to bring money and prosperity in the coming year. This tradition stems from an old English verse that states:

A bayberry candle burned to the socket,
Brings food to the larder and gold to the pocket.

In America, this tradition transformed into burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve to spread holiday cheer. The protective qualities of bayberries also made them a popular Yuletide decoration. People would hang branches of bayberries above their doors to ward off evil spirits and misfortune.

Beyond the holidays, bayberry candles were traditionally burned for a variety of other symbolic purposes. Sailors’ wives would keep a bayberry candle lit in the window to ensure their husbands’ safe return from sea. Bayberries were also burned to invite angels into the home or attract new love.

When to Burn Bayberry Candles

Many people burn bayberry candles for good luck and prosperity especially around the winter holidays. There are a few traditional times throughout the year when these candles are lit.

One of the most popular times to burn a bayberry candle is on New Year’s Eve. Lighting a bayberry candle on New Year’s Eve is thought to bring money and success in the coming year. The scent and crackling of this candle makes for a cozy way to ring in the new year.

Bayberry candles are also traditionally burned during the winter solstice, which falls on December 21st or 22nd. Since this marks the longest night of the year, lighting a bayberry candle brings warmth and cheer. Burning bayberry candles on the solstice is believed to attract positive energy and fortune.

Yule is another winter holiday when bayberries are popular. This pagan celebration aligned with the winter solstice involves lighting candles to symbolize the return of the sun. A bayberry candle lit on Yule is said to spread joy and prosperity.

Finally, bayberry candles are often burned on Christmas Eve. Families light these candles while celebrating Christmas Eve traditions. The brightness, warmth and aroma create a magical holiday atmosphere. Burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve is thought to invite luck and abundance in the coming year.

Making Bayberry Candles

Bayberry candles are made from the waxy bayberries that grow on bayberry bushes. To make bayberry candles at home, the first step is gathering bayberry plants. Bayberry bushes grow wild along the east coast from New England to Virginia. The best time to harvest bayberries is in the fall when the waxy coating on the outside of the berries is most abundant.

Once enough bayberries have been gathered, the next step is rendering the wax. This involves boiling the berries in water to extract the wax from them. The wax will float to the surface and can be skimmed off. The wax should then be strained through a cheesecloth to remove any impurities.

After rendering the wax, candle wicks can be dipped repeatedly into the wax to build up layers until the desired candle thickness is achieved. Alternatively, the wax can be poured into molds to make molded candles. Adding dyes or scents is optional when making bayberry candles.

Buying Bayberry Candles

When buying bayberry candles, it is important to look for options made from 100% bayberry wax. Many mass-produced candles contain paraffin wax or candle wax blends, which do not provide the same aromatic experience as pure bayberry wax.

For the true bayberry candle experience, seek out artisanal, small-batch candles handcrafted from bayberry shrubs. These high-quality candles are often poured in small quantities by independent artisans. Although they typically cost more than generic store-bought candles, the superior burn time, fragrance throw, and overall ambiance is worth the investment.

Expect to spend $25-$50 for a top-quality, clean-burning bayberry candle poured in the United States. Boutique candle makers create bayberry candles in interesting one-of-a-kind vessel shapes and designs. For an eco-friendly option, look for soy-blended bayberry wax candles. With proper care and storage, a well-made bayberry candle can last multiple seasons, making it a special decorative element for annual holiday decor.

Burning Bayberry Candles Safely

When burning bayberry candles or any candle, it’s important to follow safety precautions to prevent fires or other hazards.

Proper wick trimming is essential for safe bayberry candle burning. The wick should be trimmed to 1⁄4 inch before lighting to prevent excess smoke and uneven burning. Only use a wick trimmer made for candles, never scissors which can leave jagged edges.

Always place bayberry candles in an appropriate holder on a stable, heat resistant surface. The holder should be nonflammable and won’t tip over. Never burn a candle directly on any surface or leave it unattended.

Never leave a burning bayberry candle unattended. Blow it out if you’re leaving the room or going to sleep. Bayberry candles can get extremely hot and pose a fire hazard if left burning alone.

The Scent of Bayberry

One of the most distinguishing and desirable features of bayberry candles is their lovely, natural fragrance. The wax derived from the berries emits a strong, pleasant aroma when burned, releasing notes of pine, citrus, and spice.

Since the scent comes directly from the bayberry plant itself, it is an authentic, botanical fragrance, not an artificial or synthetic blend. This gives bayberry candles a more pure, earthy, and appealing smell compared to candles scented with chemical fragrances. The complex combination of woody, bright, and spicy aromas creates an inviting wintery ambiance.

The natural oil content allows the fragrance to fill a room effectively when bayberry candles are lit. People often describe the smell as clean, fresh, and reminiscent of the outdoors. It’s a cozy yet energizing scent that’s perfect for celebrating the holiday season.

If you want to experience the distinctive aroma of bayberry in candle form, be sure to look for ones made with natural bayberry wax, not just fragranced with synthetic essential oils. This will provide the truest and most authentic bayberry scent profile when burning.

Decorating with Bayberries

Bayberry candles and wreaths are a beautiful way to complement your seasonal holiday decor. The warm, spicy scent of bayberries evokes the spirit of the holidays. Here are some tips for decorating with bayberries:

On your holiday table, nestle small bayberry candles among pinecones, holly berries, and evergreen trimmings for a natural winter look. Bayberry wreaths also make lovely centerpieces. Surround a large pillar candle with fresh bayberry wreaths, pinecones, berries, and ornaments for an inviting tablescape.

Hang bayberry wreaths on your front door or above the fireplace mantel. Intertwine them with fresh winter greenery such as holly, pine, and cedar. Accent with red bows or ornaments for a festive flair. Place matching bayberry candles on the mantel or console table to tie the look together.

Arrange small bayberry candles and potpourri on side tables, buffets, shelves, and other surfaces throughout your home. Cluster them with holiday decorations like nutcrackers, little Christmas trees, snow globes, and plaid ribbon. The warm scent will infuse your rooms with seasonal spirit.

With their nostalgic scent and natural beauty, bayberries are a rustic and elegant way to decorate for the holidays. Let them inspire you to create an inviting ambiance throughout the whole season.

Caring for Bayberry Candles

Bayberry candles require some special care to maintain their scent and burn properties. Here are some tips for properly storing and caring for your bayberry candles:

Storage and Shelf Life: Like other candles, bayberry candles have a shelf life. The vegetable oils in bayberry candles can go rancid over time. Store your bayberry candles in a cool, dark place like a cupboard or drawer. Keep them away from heat, humidity, and direct sunlight which can all degrade the candles more quickly. With proper storage, bayberry candles can last 1-2 years before starting to lose their scent and effectiveness.

Signs of Expired Candles: Check your bayberry candles occasionally for signs they are past their prime. Candles that are too old may stop burning evenly, tunnel, or lose their shape. The color may become faded or take on a spotty appearance. Most notably, old bayberry candles will have a weak scent or the fragrance may turn unpleasant. If you notice these signs it’s best to replace the candle.


Bayberry candles have a long history of symbolizing hope, prosperity, and the holiday spirit. The folklore origin dates back to colonial America when candles were made from the wax of the bayberry shrub by American settlers. The difficulty of extracting the wax meant the handmade candles were treasured gifts. Over time, the candles became a New England Christmas tradition representing hearth and home.

Today, bayberry candles remain a beloved part of Christmas and winter holiday decor. The traditional scent of bayberry fills homes with nostalgia and memories of the season. While store-bought bayberry candles are more common, some still handcraft their own bayberries each holiday. Burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve keeps their special magic alive.

With their distinctive spicy aroma and connection to holiday folklore, bayberry candles continue to be a treasured tradition. Their warm, nostalgic glow keeps the spirit of hope and prosperity alive even today.

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