Bayberry – Myrica pensylvanica

‘This bayberry candle comes from a friend
so on Christmas eve burn it down to the end.
For a bayberry candle burned to the socket,
will bring joy to the heart and gold to the pocket.’

 

 

The Bayberry scent that is sooooo popular during the Christmas holidays comes from a small shriveled looking gray, waxy covered berry. For many years the early colonists used tallow to make their candles. Tallow is smoky and smells bad as it burns, it can also become rancid (smelling far worse). They soon discovered that the waxy bloom on the bayberry fruit could be boiled off and skimmed off the water surface. This then was used to make sweet smelling candles. There was only one small problem, it took thousands of berries just to make one small taper, and so these candles were saved for special occasions. (Fifteen pounds of berries for one pound of wax!)

No one knows where the poem or the tradition of burning them on Christmas or New Years Eve began, but today many people still follow it.

Johann D. Wyss wrote of making bayberry candles in the story of a shipwrecked family, The Swiss Family Robinson.

Bayberry

Bayberry

The Micmac and Malecite tribes of Canada’s Maritime Provinces used northern bayberry stems, leaves, berries, and roots for medicinal purposes

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