12.03.2010

NOT BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE


I've been reading all the recent articles about fake Christmas trees with fascination. I've always found the idea questionable; isn't it always better to go with the genuine article? But then again, I can appreciate the value of not cutting down a living tree--even though most of us get our trees from sustainably cultivated farms. Still, I love the sharp fragrance of real trees, and admire the way you can read the history of the tree's life in the uneven branches, which are stunted, or stretched, depending on where in the field they were growing, and how and when the sun hit.

My holiday decoration has generally been simple; when I had my house in the suburbs, I liked having a candle burning in every window. I have a childlike appreciation for lights in the dark night. But I did not like the anxiety that came with fire. The hard plastic alternatives didn't look good at all up close. I recently found a handsome alternative: real wax pillars that are battery operated. You can find these online. I got mine, which are about eight inches tall, for about three dollars, at Ocean State Job Lot, one of my favorite bargain hunting grounds. I love lighting the candles at five in the evening--the house doesn't feel quite so dark through the long evenings this time of the year.

Fake candles seem a bit surreal, I know. But they look so good that I may leave them up year round. They're going to be useful outside, during blustery summer picnics, when candles are easily snuffed out, even when they are in hurricane lamps. Now, every time I switch on my candles, I smile at how odd it is to be doing so. And, as well, I smile at my "authenticity snobbishness", which, as is often the case with superior attitudes, is misplaced. Sometimes it is best to avoid burning down the house.

628 comments:

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A Gift Wrapped Life said...

Not only that but many real candles with synthetic properties (often the least expensive ones) are not very healthy for young (or older) lungs. You know that black soot you see when you extinquish a candle? That is the telltale sign that it isn't a good candle to be breathing in all night long. Your fake candles may the the healthy choice.

Kat said...

I love real candles too, but I enjoy being able to put candle light in some places and not have to worry.
A trade off but it works.
Have a lovely weekend.
http://kathleenjackson.blogspot.com/

Laurent said...

No, I go profoundly with your sense of the surreal; in fact, I think this is one of the loveliest and most scandalously fey treatises on holiday humour I've read since the death of Charles Lamb (I was not present, but you know what I mean). One's craw is agog, with all this foregoing tut-tutting about air quality, given a room larger than a thimble, but the true treasure of this piece is your own, naturally - "I did not like the anxiety that came with fire." One's INSTANT response, truly, is to prescribe GETTING OVER this anxiety by making fire your friend. Introduce it, say, to a marshmallow, and possibly some brazen sausage (oops! here comes the air quality lady). Then work your way up to andirons and gauzy screens. It's wonderful stuff. Heaven knows, the gods wouldn't have been so furious with Prometheus if it were not.

The illustration for this posting is fabulous. Now, if you need a battery-operated CANDLE (what's next, I shudder...), at least improvise some mode of liquefying the wax without IMPAIRING YOUR PRICELESS AIR with you-know-what.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dominique, Oh, that candle is so pretty. I'm not much for it getting dark at five. Hugs, Joyce

Airelle said...

i for one have never been for the massacre of poor little christmas trees, no matter how sustainable.
and i love candles too, especially when i can get "real" candles, no scented, coloured horrors for me!

lostpastremembered said...

Danger lurks in electric candles too! I bought some vintage window lights years ago. I left them on through the holidays when we were at the house on weekends. I woke one evening because of a funny smell and discovered the electric candle had tipped backward onto the curtain and was smoldering! Thank heavens the curtain was heavy with a fireproof lining (they had once been in the Pierre Hotel!) or my 150 year old house would have gone up in a nasty holiday conflagration with me inside! Yours look lovely, stable and safe.

SweetRetreat said...

Your photo of the candle does make it look quite lovely. I don't know though, seems out of whack with the message of slow living. Hydro costs are skyrocketing and restraint urged. I love a flickering, burning candle.

I cannot agree with the cutting down of living trees and a month later tossing them out, no longer wanted. The time to enjoy a tree's life is while it is standing. Trees from sustainable farms are sprayed and treated to make them 'last' and can be quite dangerous indoors.

In spite of this rant, I do love seeing the lights at Christmas.

quintessence said...

I think this pillar looks lovely - a definite improvement over the regular plastic electric candles. I'm not ready to trade in my real tree but I may have to check out these convenient and good looking alternatives to the most dangerous burning candle that I inevitably forget about!

Claudia Juestel said...

Scents can bring back such wonderful memories, and Christmas makes me think of smelling cookies, candles and a freshly cut noble.

But since a Christmas fire a few years ago I have not had a tree. We have a fake one in the lobby of our building and I just saw another one at friend's house last night. Both look extremely real, but because are the best out there. There were 6 designers at dinner last night, and none spotted that it was fake until very close inspection. Plus is came with all the lights already on. As for the scent, they apparently sell that too. Or perhaps spreading branches around the house in other areas can provide that smell of Christmas,

Cheers,

Claudia

Watercolor said...

Having escaped from a house on fire, battery powered candles are about the only ones that don't give me panic attacks. lol. Not burning down the house is a VERY good thing.

Karena said...

This is really beautiful Dominique. I worry with my cat Miss Belle and the real candles!

Do come and enter my $200 Giveaway from Fifi Flowers!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

William said...

Many people believe the great Chicago fire of 1871 was caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow, in fact it was caused by a faulty real wax battery operated pillar candle that she bought at Ocean State Job Lot on a trip east for 5 cents ($3 today). Few people know this fact.

Dominique said...

William you make me laugh out loud! Next I'll buy a cow. d

William said...

d.

I'm not going to poo-poo your cow purchase idea. My grandmother bought a cow in 1930 from Ocean State Job Lot for 30 cents (about $6 today) and well a talent scout from Borden saw the cow in my grandmother's field and the cow became Elsie the Cow who rocketed to fame by her appearance at the 1939 World's Fair. I think you know the rest of the story. Let's just say the royalties keep pouring in and I write you today from one of my 6 homes - this one being my small villa in Monaco. I suggest going cow shopping today.

Barbara said...

I learned to appreciate the battery candles last year when my son got married at his fiance's family farm. I designed the event with my new daughter-in-law and we transformed the barn into a gorgeous reception hall. I was so relieved to find the battery tea lights and pillars, because I wasn't going to be the in-law responsible for burning down the family barn! It was just as beautiful as real candles and such a blessing to not have any worries.

mary said...

I have laughed at 'My stuffy authencity thing" so many times that I cannot count. But I still need a real tree.

Anonymous said...

I too have had mixed feelings about real and artificial. However, last Christmas a co-worker gave me a battery-operated candle that can be set to an internal timer. It comes on at 5:30pm and goes off by itself at 10:30pm. It's such a cheery addition on my mantle.

William said...

Life is so perplexing. We have to ask ourselves each day what is real and what is not - what's important and what's not. Is a real tree fake if it brings sadness because of memory, is a fake tree real if it brings joy? Is it wrong to bring a cut live tree into the home even if it is from a sustainably cultivated farm? Is it wrong to bring an artifical tree into the home even knowing a real tree didn't sacrifice its life for my own selfish joy? It's all too confusing. What's right? What's wrong? I just don't know what to do!!! I may have to skip Christmas this year. I'm so confused.

c said...

ok ... I know this is DB's blog, but I must confess ... I agree with William.

Real trees are absolutely beautiful, but,

1. the smell goes away the second day they are indoors;
2. the mess they create is annoying (who among us likes vacuuming pine needles in April? Not me!);
3. it FEELS wrong in our eco-conscious age to still buy live pine trees, whether grown in sustainable cultivated farms or not;
4. ditto for real wreaths.

I have personally adopted the much more (IMO, of course) ecofriendly choice - fake everything.
Trees, wreaths, candles, et al.

And xmas rope lights - yes, I leave them up year round. They provide a fabulous mood to the backyard in summer, and best of all I don't have to deal with freezing fingers setting them up in December :-)

Cristina said...

...everything, but not fake candles, please! (even gorgeous ones)

kit mitchell said...

I made haste to Ocean State Job Lot and walked out with my real wax, fake candles... or maybe they are real candles with a fake flame. Whatever they are, they look great in the windows. Simple & warm.
As I told my friends, if they are good enough for Dominique Browning, they are good enough for me.
You inspire in the most low key, unassuming sort of way.
Best,
Kit Mitchell

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