Bayberry Candles for the Holidays

northern bayberry bush with berries

Northern bayberry bush with berries

Every Christmas when I was growing up my one of the grandparent presents was a package of gifts from the Vermont Country Store.  These were mostly things that reminded them of their younger Christmases that they wanted to share with us.*  Among these were bayberry candles.


Bayberry candles are made from the wax covering the berries of the northern bayberry bush, Myrica pensylvanica. images-3

Northern bayberry is a suckering shrub that is semi-evergreen here in the Chicagoland area.  It prefers acid soils, but will survive in clay soils although it will develop chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves) in high pH soils.  The berries are high in fat, attractive to birds, and when boiled, the wax can be skimmed and dipped to be made into candles.  Traditionally, they were burned on Christmas and New Year’s Eve for good luck.  They smell heavenly!  I’m looking forward to mine this year.

*another was horehound cough drops.  Not a favorite! The maple sugar candies were popular.


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