View Full Version : Candlemaking in Iceland

Saturday, January 14th, 2006, 12:56 PM
Centuries ago, the every day light source in Icelandic farms during the winter darkness was small open lamps burning fish oil. The Icelandic name for fish oil is "lysi" which means light. Iceland is close to the Artic Circle and in December there is daylight only few hours per day. The Icelandic farmhouses were made of turf and stones and usually had only one room called ba­stofa (living/sleeping loft). The fish oil lamps would be the only light source for work and reading as can be seen on this part of a painting of life in an Icelandic ba­stofa by A. K. Schi÷tt from 1895.

Candles and candlemaking was a valuable part of Icelandic Christmas traditions. While Icelanders coped with darkness everyday by burning fish oil, during Christmas they would light up every corner of the ba­stofa by candles. Taper candles were made in Icelandic homes several days before Christmas.The most common material used for these was tallow.Not until the early 1800's was paraffin made to replace tallow as the main ingredient for candlemaking.

Children looked forward to the candlemaking day and the brightness of candles lighting up the "ba­stofa". The candles with three branches "kˇngakerti" (king candles) were thought to be the most beautiful and provide most light. During Christmas Eve night candles would burn all night in the ba­stofa.

During weekends in December candlemaking takes place in the old-fashioned way in the folk museum ArbŠjarsafn in Reykjavik. These pictures from December 1999 show how candles are made in Iceland.



Candles are dipped in the wax and allowed to cool & then dipped again. When the proper size is achieved they are hanged to dry until the wax has set.

During the candlemaking it is important to have containers that are a bit deeper than the length of the candles. It was customary in Iceland to use the milk production container (butter making container) "strokkur" for candle making. These candles were called strokkakerti. The candles were made by filling a deep tree container such as the strokkur with hot water and pour the melted tallow on top.


The candles with three branches are made by having one middle wick, then longer wicks are tied on both sides so it hangs in a bow over the middle wick. Dipping into the melted tallow or wax is then started but care has to be taken that the bow sticks to the middle wick as early in the dipping as possible. The earlier it sticks, the more even the result is. The candles with three branches are called "kˇngakerti" and were made for religious reasons to use on Christmas Eve.


Instructions for candlemaking

You need:

Candle wax or old candles to melt down
A stick about the thickness of a pencil to tie the wicks to, a foot long should be enough.
A hot-plate
A tin a bit deeper than the length of your candles.

Begin cutting the wicks the length of the candle plus a bit more for tying on the stick. Several wicks are tied on with an inch between the wicks, not too close so the candles will not stick together. Now fill the tin at least half-full with water and put in the wax as well. You can put in more water if you like, the more liquid the deeper you can dip your candles. You can use a pot for this but a good, thick tin is better because then you don't have to sweat for 10 hours trying to scrub the wax out. Anyway, heat up thewater and the wax will melt and form a layer on top of the water. The wax shouldn't be hotter than that you can dip your finger in it without too much pain. (you can make really neat wax finger-molds that way). If it's too hot the wax won't stick to the wick.

Source (http://jol.ismennt.is/english/kertagerde.htm)