Light a candle

By Caitlin Kelly

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As I write this post, it’s snowing here in New York.

The world is blessedly silent and softened, flakes swirling in the wind and piling up against our windows and ledges.

Our view of the Hudson River is totally obscured in a blanket of white.

Perfect time for candles!

My vision of candles forever changed about 20 years ago, when I visited Stockholm in late November, when the sun rose at 8:30 a.m. and set around 2:30 p.m.

Darkness arrived so early in the day that it was both unsettling and disorienting.

I’d never before seen businessmen at lunch — dining by candlelight. But it was both a smart way to boost illumination and add to the room’s ambience.

I now start and end my winter days with a bedside scented candle, a gift from a friend.

It’s a soothing start to a dark, cold, windy morning — the scratch of match-head on matchbox, the whoosh and flare of flame, the flicker as it catches the wick and begins to glow.

At night, I breath out, extinguishing it. The day is done.

So much nicer than brilliant, suddenly shocking electric light or, worse, the artificial glow of a tablet, phone, television or computer screen.

(If you ever watched Downtown Abbey on TV, you might recall the Dowager Duchess holding a fan to her face as she confronts the new glare of electric bulbs.)

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Candlelight is silent.

Candlelight is gentle.

Candlelight is timeless.

It reconnects us to the past — from the tallow candles of our ancestors to the elegant tapers of Georgian homes (magnified by enormous mirrors everywhere.)

Try it and see how it alters and softens your mood

As the saying goes — it’s better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.

Light A Candle

Candle light
Image via Wikipedia

Do you ever wonder what life was like before we — in the more developed world at least — took electricity for granted?

Mirrors mattered, for their ability to reflect and magnify every available source of light. The crystal prisms of chandeliers amplified the glow of candles — chandelles, hence chandelier.

Candles were carefully trimmed and hoarded.

Traveling through inky darkness, whether by horse, carriage, boat or on foot, was a perilous undertaking as pirates, animals and highwaymen lay in wait. Not to mention perilous roads and conditions.

One of my favorite movie scenes ever is in Cabaret, when Sally and Brian sit on the floor in a room exclusively lit by candles.

I often start these long, cold, murky winter days by lighting candles on the shelf beside our bed. It’s a gentle way way to ease into the day, without the sudden, harsh illumination — wake up!!!! — of simply snapping on a light.

It’s also a lovely way to soothe yourself after a crazy, beeping, buzzing, over-caffeinated day. I love the snap of the match, the delicate blue moment of a wick lighting up, the surprising amount of light a cluster of candles does offer, enough to read by — preferably something written in the 18th. century!

We light candles every evening as we sit down to eat, votives whose glow softens the room.

When I visited Stockholm in late November — where the sun rose at 8:30 and was gone by 2:30 — candles were everywhere, even on the restaurant tables at lunch, creating a wholly different, (softer, gentler), mood for even the men in their suits having business lunches.

There is something centering and calming about staring into the flickering flame of a candle.