Lit Candles

My grandmother, Belva Haynesworth Hudson (Granny), attended the South Carolina Training School for Women (now Winthrop University). My mother, Louise Hudson Neely, also attended Winthrop. I do not know if part of their education included the etiquette of candle burning or not, but I can remember my Granny telling me before a party at my mom’s house that there were two unlit candles and that the wicks needed to be blackened.

For years, I have tried to understand the etiquette behind the tradition of not having an unlit candle on display in the house. For some, it’s considered bad luck. For others, it’s simply considered poor taste. But for some it is a matter of politeness. Now I don’t know about the lucky/unlucky part, but I do know that for my mom to have an unburnt candle was to be considered too cheap to use what you had and that she did not want people
thinking that she would not use her candles. As a matter of fact, one of the jobs she would assign before a party was the lighting of all the candles in the house.

I know from my Granny, it was a matter of politeness to others. You see, when she was a little girl growing up, the only light in the house came from candles. When she and her husband moved into their new house in Spartanburg, they had natural gas lamps, but to keep from being considered too wealthy to need candles, she kept the wicks blackened. After all, if someone who did not have the availability of gas lights or electrical lights came into your home and saw candles that were unlit, it might embarrass them.

For me, a table set with lit candles is a warm greeting and it means the party is on. May your home be filled with the warmth of shared light this season.

Bill Neely