December is such a cold, dark month here in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., I think Christmas was invented just to give us an excuse to put bright, cheery lights everywhere.
At my house, we do! We outline the outside windows of our house in little white twinklers that beautifully frame the Christmas tree inside that's been lit with multi-colored strands. We don't have a central fireplace, so we light candles in the main windows, on the tables and on the counters, creating a flickering glow from all corners of the living and dining room. In my best Martha Stewart imitation, I also string garlands, lights and ribbons all the way up the staircase for a fairytale effect. Most nights, after dinner we turn off our regular end table lamps and quietly enjoy the peaceful beauty these subtle sparks create.
For years, of course, we used standard (energy-wasting) incandescents for all of these lights, along with typical paraffin candles. But over the last few years, we've begun transitioning to LED lights, and the only candles I buy now are made from beeswax.
Initially, the LED lights reflected more my commitment to the environment than my love for the quality of their light. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are environmentally preferable because they're so incredibly efficient: while a string of 300 conventional mini Christmas lights costs about $13.12 to operate, 300 LEDs will cost only around $1.25 to power up. The downside? The first white LEDS on the market threw such a harsh, cold light, it completely defeated the purpose of using those lights to create the sense of warmth.
But the technology has evolved considerably (replacing my pain at being an "early adopter" with the satisfaction of knowing that my demand increased a better supply!). LEDs now come in a glow that's actually called "warm," along with pretty green, red and blue bulbs. They're also available in larger bulbs as well as the tiny, twinkly ones. For those who celebrate Hanukkah, you can get strings of only blue bulbs as well.
Where? LED holiday lights have become so mainstream you can find them at most local hardware stores, at big box outlets like Wal Mart and Target, and online at Forever Bright and Christmas Lights, etc. But be prepared: they do cost more upfront than incandescents. You'll make the money back over time in electricity savings. And an equally big bonus: LEDs last longer than the fragile incandescents, so you'll neither have to replace the lights every year, nor spend hours trying to figure out which tiny incandescent bulb in your mini strand is broken. That's a huge plus in this busy mom's book.
Why beeswax candles?
Candles made from beeswax have a lot going for them: their natural golden honey color, their sweet but subtle smell, the clean way they burn. They don't drip, either, so you can use them in tapers, votives, or as molded stand alones on a table or window sill.
They can be hard to come by in the mall, but you'll find them aplenty online.
Big Dipper Wax Works – Among the many choices are 3" beeswax ornaments in the shape of a Star, Snowflake or Ribbon that each will burn for over 40 hours; elegant tapers whose wicks are 100% cotton and contain no lead or metal, and larger “pedestals” in a variety of colors.
Beeswax Candle Company – Beautiful holiday candles shaped into holly spirals, pinecones, trees, pillars and columns. Plus beautiful accessories, including candle holders and tapers.
Candlebee Farm – Additive-free and solar powered processes bring you dripless tapers, plain pillars and votive styles; you can also choose solid poured or rolled honeycomb candles.
Beeswax Company – Natural candles molded into creative shapes, like beehives, balls and cubes, votives and tealights.
Candles made from soy can be a good alternative, if you don't mind the heavy fragrances many of them emit. You can find them here.