Humans have been constructing candles for at least 5,000 years.
Egyptian traditions of gathering rush grasses and drenching the bundles in animal fat before setting them on fire tell the story of possibly the earliest candles known on earth. Centuries later, the beeswax candle developed (somewhere in Europe) – clearly inspired by these candle burning origins from Africa.
Today, we make beeswax candles by hand in the foothills of the Catskill mountains in upstate New York, where the indigenous lands of the Susquehannock, Lenape, and Haudenosaunee people intersect, specifically the Oneida, Mohawk, and Onondaga nations. Our small team of crafts persons follow in the tradition of the millenia of humans who came before us, gathering raw materials from nature to create light and warmth.
Can you imagine all of the beautiful places and times that people light candles? Candles for community, candles for ceremony. The candle-lighting ritual spans every culture and society across the world. This fall, we honor the celebrations, ceremonies, and special events that include candle rituals. The autumn celebrations of Día de los Muertos, Halloween, and Diwali. The winter celebrations of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas.
PHOTO CREDIT: MAX FLATOW
Día de los Muertos, Halloween, and Diwali all happen in autumn. For many, these holidays mark the beginning of the winter season. For some, they signify the time of year when the veil is thin between the human and spirit world. All three holidays welcome and invite connections to our ancestors, spirits, and guides through the lighting of candles. Diwali has just passed (October 24th this year) and, roughly translated as "Festival as Lights," may just deserve the grand prize of all the autumn celebrations that include candle rituals. Families and communities in India, and globally, prepare for Diwali by cleaning their homes and spaces, followed by the lighting of candles to illuminate the night and send good energy back into the atmosphere. Similarly, families and communities celebrating Día de los Muertos light candles to welcome spirits back home to visit the altars (spaces for spiritual or religious worship; places where the divine and human worlds interact) and receive the ofrendas (offerings of food, beverages, gifts to honor and give back to the ancestors and guides).
After autumn comes winter. Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas each originate from a cultural or religious tradition that brings family and friends together during the winter months. Kwanzaa is a particularly special candle ceremony, uplifting the principles of Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), and Kuumba (creativity) through red candles; Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Nia (purpose), and Imani (faith) shine through green candles; Umoja (unity) is represented by the black candle, which is placed in the center and lit on the first day of celebration. This process and the candle colors symbolized in the ceremony honor putting people first (black), recognizing the struggle (red), and blessing the hope that springs from the struggle (green). Created in the 1960s, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African and African American holiday uplifting family, connection, and community. Hanukkah, too, is an annual, winter celebration of a peoples' resistance, survival, and miracles through the lighting of multiple candles.
PHOTO CREDIT: NOURISH CO.
Christmas may be one of the first holidays we think of when we think of the warm sparkle of lights – though the many traditions surrounding Christmas, especially the rituals of lighting candles, date back before Christianity. The tradition of the mid-winter festival has been traced back to multiple cultures and eras in history, including ancient Babylon, Egypt, Persia, Germany, and Rome. Ultimately, whether you practice Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, or another set of rituals, the winter solstice on December 21 marks a change in the seasons and a time to bring light into your life. Rejoice in the joy that sun and fire bring to our lives and to our planet. From one candle, light another, and another.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARTHA STEWART
GreenTree Home celebrates the power and importance of lighting candles for all of your ceremonies and practices. We would like to share a special playlist, Candle Magic, created for your listening pleasure. Our candles are created with love, and made to burn through daily struggles and joys as they brighten your holidays and special occasions.
BUSY BEE TIP: Plan ahead and buy multiple candles so you can give them away as gifts throughout the year – or perhaps so you can burn them in your own space each and every day!
BEE SUSTAINABLE: Might there be old candles sitting around – in drawers or boxes, in the basement or attic? Dig them out and light them up! Candles don't go bad.