This year during Chanukah, it might be a good idea to consider using beeswax candles to light the menorah.
According to Debby de Moulpied, founder and president of Bona Fide Green Goods in New Hampshire, paraffin candles, which are made out of petroleum, are hazardous to one’s health. “When you burn a paraffin candle, the fumes that come off of it are basically the same as the exhaust that comes out of the tailpipe of a diesel car,” she said. “You’re breathing in those fine particles and chemicals.”
Beeswax candles, on the other hand, burn 99 percent clean, and black soot will not form around them. Christine Barth of Oregon’s Beeswax Candle Works, a leader in beeswax candle making and selling, said that because she doesn’t work with paraffin, her workshop doesn’t smell like petroleum. Instead, it smells faintly of honey. As both Barth and de Moulpied pointed out, if you go this route, it’s important to make sure that the Chanukah candles are made out of 100 percent beeswax, because the legal regulation to be identified as beeswax is only 51 percent.
Beeswax candles are more expensive than paraffin ones: At Bona Fide, a box of 45, 5-inch-tall Chanukah candles costs $26, while Beeswax Candle Works charges $16.25 for 45 5-inch candles. Other Chanukah candles range in price from about $3 to $10 for a box of 45. De Moulpied, however, says that beeswax burns four to five times longer than paraffin. The trade-off “turns out to be even,” she said.
Every year, Beeswax Candle Works sells thousands of bags of Chanukah candles, and, per one customer’s request, is now offering Shabbat candles that are 5 inches tall and burn for four to five hours.
It’s no easy task to create the specialty candles, Barth said. It takes about 2 ounces of honey to make just one of them. On a larger scale, 8.5 pounds of honey are required to make 1 pound of beeswax.
Despite the arduous process and higher cost, the health and environmental benefits of beeswax candles are clear. And burning beeswax, as opposed to paraffin, during the Festival of Lights may turn out to be a unique joy. “I can’t make any scientific claims, but I just know the experience of burning them is real wonderful,” Barth said. “They give off a beautiful ambient light. They’re just a beauty to burn.”