Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thy candles shine out brightly...

I miss my dear, sweet mother-in-law in so many ways. It will be strange not to travel to her home  this week--we've usually ventured their way sometime during the twelve days of Christmas for many years now.

My husband's family is old-world European. So many things that took getting used to at first are now precious parts of my life, adopted into the life of our little family from his. Perhaps I'll write of all of them sometime, but for today I'm thinking about candles. Sweet Tiiu changed my life regarding candles.

I grew up in a home where candles were decorations. They were carefully chosen for their visual appeal--never their actual scent when burning. Why? Because they were never actually burning. In fact, most were never even lit. A candle's visual appeal was, apparently, marred by a black wick. Every candle in our home growing up had a white wick from having never been lit.

I never saw candles burning, save for three notable exceptions. One was the several-times-a-year round of little candles on the birthday cakes. A second was the yearly lighting and passing of the flames during "Silent Night" at the Christmas Eve service. And a third was the times company came over and my mom lit a little votive candle in the bathroom. I remember going into the guest bathroom and just sitting there, watching the pattern of color that would dance on the walls through the sides of the little stained glass votive holder.

So the message I subconsciously got growing up was that candles were for decoration or special occasions only.

Then I began to visit the Sitterdings' house. I remember walking in, and there was always a candle burning in the entryway. There were candles on the coffee table. There were candles burning on the table during meals. At first I associated it with the "guests are here" category of candle-burning, but I soon realized that this was a common thing--an everyday thing. I so loved the feeling of warmth it gave--all welcome and comfort and home and "you are special."

I realized that it made me feel so special, this extravagant act of "wasting" candles in the everyday. It spoke to me, straight to my heart, that "today is special enough--this ordinary, daily-day moment together--for burning candles." So burn them I did.

It took a little while to get used to, for sure--I was conditioned to think this was excessive in the everyday--but only a little while! I loved how it made the house feel--how it made the house smell. (Somewhere on the list of favorite, memorable things ever said to me is a friend's pleased utterance of, "Your house smells so yummy and welcoming!")

And so, as I light the yummy-smelling pine-cone-and-lime Yankee Candle this morning--and, indeed, every other candle in the house!--I remember my sweet mother-in-law, and my dear sleeping children upstairs, and my dear husband out running the dogs, and I prepare my heart to celebrate the wondrous fact that today is anything but an ordinary day!

*From "O Christmas Tree"
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

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