Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Superstitions

Do you hold any superstitions? I don't mean picking up pennies and avoiding black cats, this is a design blog after all! While going through some photos I took in the Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this year, I noticed that these wall lights had the candle wicks left unburnt. I've always been taught that tapers should be charred before being left in a candlestick; not sure why, but I've always followed this rule. I know it comes from some unknown superstition but I can't seem to find what would happen if I didn't burn them! Do you follow this practice?
These rococo wall lights are manufactored by the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin in the 1760s.

27 comments:

Todd said...

I love those wall sconces, did we see those together? Also, whenever we change over our showroom it's almost like ceremony for our creative team to run around lighting and then extinguishing all the candles. We're obviously superstitious at Ralph Lauren.

Shabbily Ever After said...

Oh lord,
Now i have read it i will be doing the same lol....love those wall lights so very beautiful,
x

The Devoted Classicist said...

I replace the candles when they are to be used, so burning the wick is not an issue. But I am guessing that the museum is following the traditional practice where those of means had the candles in the formal rooms replaced after each use; one either saw a fresh candle or one that was burning.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

I've always lit candles and then extinguished them in that fashion, but more out of a sense of etiquette rather than superstition.

My understanding, which comes to me from my mother, is that by lighting new candles, you indicate to your guests that the candles are not just for show (even though they might well be). I have to add, though, that when I was growing up, we did use candles for nightly dinners.

Randy said...

I never put a new candle out without first burning the wick. But, now that you bring up the subject, I can't tell you why I do it. It's not superstition. I think it's more of taste & style maybe...like not wearing white after Labor Day...it just one of those things people in the know do!

www.ajbarnesonline.blogspot.com

David said...

We do this too, I've never known why.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Todd, yes, this was the trip we went together!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Mark, I think you're right on the mark with your assessment! It's not superstition but more to show you're the 'type' to use candles (even if you don't!).
Devoted -historically you're obviously right. Candles were useful objects, unlike now, and they wouldn't have had the same reasons for leaving them lit/unlit. They weren't left unlit for long so it didn't matter!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Yes, I've always done it myself but never known quite why. I was just brought up doing it!

Paisley Curtain said...

There are 2 reasons to charr the wick:

1.In order to make the candle burn evenly the wick is charred. A candle burns evenly if the wick length is 1/4 inch. Usually a new wick is not even and 1/4 inch, once the new wick is charred, the next time it lights easily and burns evenly. This is the practical reason.
2. The superstitious reason is that a charred wick brings good luck, I don't know how true it is :)

Blue said...

I trim new wicks and am shameless in leaving them unburnt until they are used. I've never cared for the 1980s "it's what one does" attitude of it.

I remember being at a party in the mid 1990s at which the decorator gave scented candles in lidded containers and when some were opened to catch the scent it was found each wick had been burnt. It looked as if used candles were being given - which is precisely the situation. An example of very silly faddishness in action!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Paisley -yes -I always trim my wicks too to 1/4". So important (so you don't cause a fire!)

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Blue -it is pretty pointless when you think about it -such a small thing. However, I don't think it's neccesarily silly when you compare it to the many other things we do in our own homes 'just because'. However -gifting an already charred wick is ridiculous. I'd think I was being given a used candle the gifter didn't like!

The Down East Dilettante said...

It's just one of those things that everyone I know has always done---my grandmother, etc. Never heard a superstition attached---I remember with my grandmother it was just not liking the look of new candles in sconces and candlabra...

GRAYSONFAVOUR said...

I had a friend in school whose very old Greek grandmother said it was tempting the gods to not burn the wick...I have been frightened ever since and would NEVER leave any unburnt!

theduchessofH said...

I burn the wicks too, and for the same reasons Mark D Ruffner stated. I was brought up to believe that is an etiquette rule. I also don't light them before sunset; but if I had a very dark dining room, I might light them when we sit down to eat.

I don't really have any superstitions; but I do throw salt over my shoulder, and I'm sure I throw it over the wrong shoulder, so I throw it over both which is probably worse. lol

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

I also burn the wicks...I think it is only polite. It is such a dead giveaway to anyone who is in the business to see them fresh. Thanks for the post...small detail but you know the quote....

ArchitectDesign™ said...

God is in the details!

sandrajonas.com said...

My mom always did it and I do too, never knew why.Still don't, even with all these comments!!!LOL

Cote de Texas said...

hey! thanks for the comment today!! yeah, i was really really lucky. I did pay for the hanging which was a small fortune, but because the paper was free it all balanced out. i love those grapes - they are so big. you went to kips? One day I hope to go too!! hope all is well. Megan told me she met you in high point!!
J

pve design said...

Candle etiquette -"Charring the wicks" indicates which candles are to be burned and which are purely decorative. I also do the same. I think it stemmed from the many power outages during the war. My Mother-in-law told me so.
She is always right :)
pve

Karena said...

Always was told to burn the wicks!!
As Patricia says our Mother's are always right!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

laney said...

...the source of that rule comes directly from my mother...

Anonymous said...

The superstition is...An unburned wick is the sign of a cold heart.

Ottoline Divine another blog from little augury said...

It looks better to trim and burn them a bit too-always a good reason. these don't look very good-but I am happy to see the candles a wonky-makes mine seem up to par with the met now,very happy about that. pgt

darrinshane said...

I do it, too--I was taught never to put in a candle without lighting it first. I never asked why...

Anonymous said...

When I was first married I found myself charring the wicks of new candles without knowing why (my mother had always done it). I called her and asked her why and she didn't know (her mother had always done it). Years later I read an article that said that in the days before electricity when candles were used for light it was considered an ostentatious display of wealth (and in very poor taste) to display unburnt candles and that's why people burn new candles and then blow them out. I cut that article out and sent it to my Mom with a note that said, "At least now you know why we do it."