Growing up Adirondack by Mitch Lee

Burning candles spark fond memories of holiday traditions

Swedish CandlesThere were many opportunities to enjoy the sights of burning candles during the Christmas season when I was a boy growing up on Limekiln Lake.

My mother had a variety of special ones scattered throughout our home.

Large and small, thick and thin, smelly and unscented—they seemed to be in every corner of the house.

The candle placement ritual symbolized the beginning of the long winter months to come. Before long presents would be found under the Christmas tree.

There was one display of white slender candles that I was most fond of.

Made in Sweden, they were surrounded at the base by four trumpet-blowing cherubs that spun around making a chiming sound as they struck tiny brass bells.

When the candles were lit, the energy from the heat caused the fan-shaped brass carousel to spin into motion.

At the very top was a lone cherub blowing its trumpet upward to the sky, twirling tirelessly on one toe.

I was mesmerized by the spinning and tinkling bell chimes as the light from the candle reflected off the shiny surface of the display.

The scattering of candles was just one of many of our Christmas traditions.

I can picture my father’s body half-in and half-out of the attic as he tried to retrieve the many boxes of Christmas decorations. 

And I can still hear my mother explaining the correct way to place icicles on the tree.

My brother, sister and I would hang Advent calendars and colored pages from Christmas coloring books on the hallway in a makeshift art gallery.

The three of us made out our wish lists, helped bake cookies and watched every Christmas special on television in anticipation of the big day.

Dad would select a Christmas tree from some far-off woods.

The tree always seemed to be a bit fuller on one side and needed to be secured to the wall with rope so it wouldn’t fall.

The look on my mother’s face when he appeared at the door with his less-than-perfect choice is also a cherished memory of our Adirondack household during the holidays.

But it is the burning Swedish candles that hold a special place in my heart.

The dancing flame seemed to carry a magical spirit. When the wind blew outdoors the flames danced and fluttered a bit as if affected by the breeze.

I drew a small sketch of the Swedish angels dancing round and round in the glow of those four candles.

It was the closest I could get to recording all the traditions experienced in our home during the Christmas season.

Mitch Lee is an Adirondack illustrator & storyteller, living in his boyhood town of Inlet.

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