Finally, candles that illuminate rather than irritate

December 23, 2006|By ROB KASPER

During this season of joy, I know it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. But lately I have been doing more fulminating than illuminating.

The problem is those blasted candles, the electric ones that are supposed to sit in windows, brightening the nether reaches, sending out beacons of hope.

Despite repeated attempts on my part to instill warmth, joy and a touch of class to the homestead, the candles have not been cooperating.

Like the parking lot attendants at the old Capital Centre in Landover, they abandon their posts. They drop off the windows. When this happens, the world becomes a dark and fearful place.

OK, that is an exaggeration. What really happens when my candles fall from the windows is that I become a dark and brooding person full of vengeful thoughts. Thoughts such as how does Ray Lewis of the Ravens get left out of the NFL's Pro Bowl team while San Diego's Shawne Merriman, a proven steroid user, makes it? And why do Goldman Sachs honcho Lloyd Blankfein and Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy get sweet year-end surprises -- a $53.4 million bonus for Blankfein and an $83,000 raise for Jessamy -- while the big holiday hello I get is that my beer fridge suddenly stops refrigerating?

I rant. That is what happens when window candles fall.

The practice of placing a candle in the window has a rich history. It symbolizes warmth and security and, according to the American Family Traditions Web site, can signal loyalty to family members who are not present. During times of religious persecution in Ireland, a candle in the window marked the site of a religious service, the Web site said. Colonial Americans put candles in their windows to announce births and honor dignitaries. Williamsburg, Va., a font of American Colonial history, goes window candle crazy at Christmastime.

I put candles in my windows at this time of year, or try to, because it is one of the few opportunities I have to make the windows look good. They are bay windows, tall, more than 100 years old. They have no sills and are architecturally interesting. They also leak like a sieve even though they are painted shut, meaning they can't be opened. But when you put a candle in them, they look lovely.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of devices to keep the candles steady.

I have tried wrapping the candles in wire, then securing the wire to the window sash locks. This made for cockeyed candles, and cockeyed ain't classy.

I have tried many types of suction cups, which when coupled with plastic holders are supposed to secure the candle and adhere to the window glass. The suction cups are, in my experience, like air kisses. They have no staying power.

There are, I have learned, battery-powered candles. These, I suppose, are lighter than the brass ones I use. I thought about buying some of these lightweights, but when I telephoned the Brookstone store I was told that these candles were only sold online. Maybe next year.

So last weekend I screwed up my courage and went shopping in real brick-and-mortar stores. I ventured into the holiday decoration section of Stebbins Anderson in Towson. There, as the electric trains clattered nearby, I found what I think were the last suction candle holders left in the Baltimore area. These little beauties, called Lites Up Candolier Holders, were a two-part operation. One part clutched the candle's body. The other part, a suction cup, slides into the candleholder.

I put three of them on my upstairs bay windows. The windows glowed for about an hour. Then, in keeping with tradition, one of the suction cups gave way, and a candle tumbled.

This time, rather than cursing the darkness, I retaliated. Taking a tip from Mickey Fried, one of the savants who work at Belle Hardware on McMechen Street, I bought a roll of transparent weather-seal tape.

I taped the suction cups to the window. It may not be what they do in Williamsburg, but it works in Baltimore.

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