What Are Bayberry Candles?

Mary Ellen Popolo

Bayberry candles are a fragrant candle that emit virtually no smoke when lit. There are two forms of these candles, natural and manufactured. The natural candles are made solely from the wax of bayberries and usually have no additional added materials or scent. Manufactured candles are crafted using candle wax and bayberry scent, which is added during the manufacturing process.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

When bayberries are boiled they produce a fragrant, waxy residue often called candle-berry or wax myrtle. The wax is skimmed off of the top of the pot and then molded and cooled to create the candles. When boiling bayberries, the yield of wax is minuscule compared to the number of berries, making it a laborious task which in turn increases the retail cost of the candles. Bayberry candles date back to the American colonial era when colonial women discovered that bayberries produced wax that could be used in the same manner as tallow and that had a much more pleasant odor. Before being used for candles, bayberry wax was used to make soap and for medicinal purposes, including the treatment of dysentery.

The candles come in all different shapes and sizes, such as votives, tea lights, tapers, and pillar candles. Bayberry jar candles are not often found due to a combination of the brittleness of the wax and the tedious task of producing it. The colors of these candles can vary, but most often, they are in the green or blue color families. The composition of bayberry candles is more brittle than other types of candles and they tend to burn faster as well.

Christmastime is one of the most common times to find bayberry candles but not because of their green coloring. There is a rhyme that goes along with bayberry candles that promises good luck, health, and fortune to those who burn a bayberry candle on Christmas. Although there are some variations, the most common wording of the rhyme is "A bayberry candle burned to the socket, will bring joy to the heart and gold to the pocket." The candle must be a new and previously unlit then lit on Christmas and allowed to burn out completely for the good luck and fortune to take place in the following year. Other folk tales surrounding this candle include a tale that the scent of a lit bayberry candle will help separated couples find each other.

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Discussion Comments


@literally45-- I'm looking for real bayberry candles. Most bayberry candles on the market are just candles scented with bayberry. The last one I bought did not even smell like bayberry.

Burning bayberry candles on New Year's is a tradition in our home too. I also like gifting them to friends and relatives for Christmas and we also burn them at church. But I'm having a hard time finding good bayberry candles these past few years. The ones we had during my childhood were real bayberry candles. They were great quality and smelled great. One could tell that a lot of effort was going into making them.


@literally45-- I think there are both types on the market. Check the label carefully to see if it's 100% natural. If it's hand made, then it's most likely all natural. There are a few companies in the US that still make them by hand, the traditional way.

My grandmother used to burn a bayberry candle every year on New Year's. My mother continued the tradition and I have started it as well. I think it's a beautiful thought. The bayberry candle burns through and a new beginning is made with the arrival of the new year.


I know the bayberry candles used in colonial times were completely natural and made only from bayberries. But what about the ones made now? Are they completely natural as well? Are they vegan?

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