No, it’s not THAT kind of wax job, so for those of you with a non-vegetarian mind, I hate to disappoint and launch a spoiler alert: this is all about recycling and repurposing old candle stumps.
Let me begin by admitting that I love candles and every opportunity I have to use them at home is never wasted. They create such a harmonious atmosphere that is always conducive to prayer, meditation, relaxation, and writing. There have even been nights when I turned off all the lamps and just wrote by candlelight, which was a bit creepy at first, but when I think of all the classic medieval writers who wrote their masterpieces by candlelight without laptops, I shrugged the feeling off. Writing by candlelight also heightens the senses, which is important when trying to pin down and particular emotion in words. But that’s beside the point today.
I grew up in countries where electricity cuts and power shortages were a common thing, so my parents made sure we always had a generous supply of candles within reach. Daddy didn’t want us stumbling around in the dark for a flashlight and tumbling down the stairs, so Mommy made sure to place a candlestick and a box of matches all over the house, which gave her an excuse to buy candleholders in every shape and size in every city we lived in or she visited, amassing a cute collection for every occasion and holiday.
It was my mother-in-law who introduced me to the wonderful world of pillar candles though. She lit them for coffee hour, at breakfast if there was a special occasion, or in the evenings for vespers (which in Germany is not always related to prayer but rather a cold dinner of bread, cheese and coldcuts). This grew on me and I loved how comforting the gathering around the table became and carried on the tradition.
When I living on my own my fear was that I would forget to blow out a candle somewhere and set myself and my home on fire. Who would come to my rescue? Who would hear my screams? OK, this is being extremely melodramatic, but suffice it to say that I never light a candle in the bedroom. Little did I know that I would end up with scatterbrained cats who would carelessly swish their bushy tails over the candle and set themselves on fire! Neither Lolita nor Cherry understand the danger of fire so they didn’t take the burning tails seriously but took great offence at the smell of burnt fur. Loli was already half on fire when she casually sauntered over to the kitty litter and rolled around to put out the fire. She panicked at the shaving I had to give her afterwards but the fire didn’t bother her one bit! So the golden rules in my home is that I can light as many candles as I want but they always have to be in a container of sorts and never leave the cats unsupervised.
Pillar candles and tea lights are my candles of choice and I make sure I never run out of those. Summers are never ideal for candles because you have to contend with electric fans and the heat, unless you can tolerate the smell of citronella candles to combat mosquitos. As soon as the temperatures drop to the point where you need a shawl or a cardigan, out comes the candle battalion again. The trouble with many of the pillar candles, however, is that you end up with a good chunk of unused candle at the bottom but you’ve run out of wick. With some, the middle burns down quickly but you are left with a solid portion of wax wall, which almost seems a pity to throw away. I didn’t have the heart to dispose of these leftovers and began collecting them in a bag last October. By the time Christmas was over I had quite the collection but wasn’t really sure yet how I was going to recycle these. If you remember an earlier Advent blog, I took to playing around with some of the wax for a photograph
This year I began buying the cheaper slow-burning altar candles (called oil candles in German or grave candles in other countries). They burn evenly all the way to the very bottom and you are left with a plastic container that can be recycled. So I began collecting those as well until finally I had enough of both materials to recycle into new candles. All I had to do was obtain new wicks.
I had every intention of cooking another batch of marmalade (am leaving that, as well as the jams for next week) when I got up this morning but my better judgement counselled against it. With the overcast sky and prevailing winds it seemed like the perfect day to pretend I was an alchemist again. So out came my essential oils and my odds and ends of leftover wax.
The first candle was a rather messy process but by the time I poured the third one it was flawless and no spillage. I even got the scents right. Next time I will start from scratch using paraffin pellets and an assortment of containers. I’m beginning to wonder whether I was indeed an alchemist squirrel in a past life… hmmm my inner witch is showing again. In any case, I still have wax to work with for a couple more candles to make for some cosy nights.