Design

The Dinner-Changing Magic of Candlesticks

The Dinner-Changing Magic of Candlesticks

Last year, our weekday dinners were starting to feel a little monotonous…

We’d rush home from work, make scrambled eggs or a Trader Joe’s frozen pizza, and still feel our minds buzzing, while we asked the boys: “How was your day at school?” (which I’ve heard feels, to a child, the same as asking, “How were the last 20 years of your life?”). Dinner felt like one more thing we were checking off the list.

But last Christmas, I got these candlesticks as a gift, and they’ve become a surprising MVP in our daily routine. They somehow make a regular dinner instantly feel special and sacred.

First off, lighting candles slows you down. The ritual feels good: you get the matches, light one, light the other… The boys love it, too. They do that trick where you put your finger through the flame, and they like to blow them out. When friends come over and we light the candles, 10/10 people will be like, “Oh my gosh! Candles! You guys!”

Here are six lovely candle holders, if you’re interested: gold, wooden, seagrass, coiled, porcelain, pink.

Joanna Goddard family dinner

A blurry but happy photo.

That’s it! I know candlesticks aren’t some earth shattering find (guys, have you heard of CANDLES?) but I can’t believe what a difference it makes to our meals, so I thought I’d share. Xoxo

P.S. Cute vases, family dinner ideas, and how to get your kids to talk at dinner.

  1. Ali says...

    Party trick – with lighter or match at the ready… blow out the candle and (several inches off the wick) light the heavy smoke. It lights the vaporized wax and relights the candle at the wick. SO COOL.

  2. Martha Patterson says...

    We always have candles at dinner…like you said, they have a calming effect, creates a soothing atmosphere, and makes the food taste better.

  3. Cora says...

    We had candles on the table and classical music playing at dinner every night growing up. It definitely makes the mundane a little more enjoyable.

  4. Sarah says...

    We do this too – candles at night. As we light them we each say where we want to send our love and light out to. I grew up religious, and I suppose its my version of ritual or prayer to send healing, positive, loving thoughts and to those in need, friends, or ourselves. Its interesting to hear what my 2 and 4 year olds say – firefighters! Trains! Endangered Orcas! To a sick classmate, to the unhoused…

  5. Marybeth says...

    I don’t have children OR a kitchen table, but I lit candles on my bar area for book club and it was so lovely. HOWEVER, I was scraping wax off the counter for a good 15 minutes afterward. What’s the answer to this? My candle holders didn’t catch all the wax–even with the dripless TJ candles I was using. Somebody help my candle naivety!

    • Jillian Murphy says...

      I thrift small vintage saucers and put them under candlesticks that don’t catch all the wax!

    • Ali says...

      Freezing candles allows them to burn slower. A good trimmed wick too (1/4″) and not in a drafty area. Drafts cause uneven burn/ wax evaporation.

  6. It’s so true! I started doing this for dinners a few years ago. Actually, I even do it in the morning when I’m having my coffee at the table (smaller candle). And what a difference it makes to get you through those long, dark dreary winter months (especially on the west coast!).

  7. Caroline says...

    Growing up my family had a ritual of lighting upwards of like 20 candles in our dining room for dinner every night. Everyone thinks the dining room has to be for special occasions, but we love ours, so why not eat there? No matter if we just got out of the shower, where still in our school uniforms, or still kind of sticky from sports practice – we all sat down in our candle lit dining room for family dinner (sometimes even if it was 9 at night).

    We also have a practice of lighting what we call the “remembrance candle”, where we light all of the other candles in the room, but save one special one that we light as a family. When we light the candle everyone goes around and says the same of someone in our lives we want to remember that night. A friend whose mother has cancer, a grandparent, or your bestie who just got into their dream school. It’s my favorite thing we do as a family, and I cannot wait until I get to show my own kids a remembrance candle one day.

  8. Cassie F. says...

    When we moved into our (very old) home, there was no overhead lighting in our dining room, so when winter rolled around and it was dark well before dinner time my husband and I dug some half-burned candles out of a drawer to light during our meal. We meant for it to be temporary, but our kids LOVED it. It’s now a tradition! We have lights now, but as soon as there is a chill in the air, the candles come out.

  9. Megan klein says...

    Do you have the little candle snuffer? My aunt had a brass one that looked like a little lampshade on a pole and we always wanted to have the honor of putting the candles out at the end of dinner

  10. Debbie says...

    Twenty minutes before you light your candles put them in the freezer you will have no drip candles and they last longer works every time please take the plastic off first thank you Joanna for this blog it is amazing got me reading during the tough times in my life

  11. Lauren says...

    Ah, yes! We also started this, upon moving into our new apartment 3 months ago. I came across a beautiful set of candle holders at IKEA, and figured it would be a special touch for our new home. Now we light them each night, and makes dinner – even just leftovers or make your own dinners – feel so special. Somehow makes it easier to focus on each other too!

  12. I’ve long held the belief that the soft glow of a candle can change your life. So delicate and soulful.
    It also can burn your home down so proceed with caution! But enjoy!

  13. Claire says...

    I stand behind whatever makes life feel even the littlest bit sweeter. So cheers to this! :)

  14. Nicole says...

    I’ve had my eye on these beautiful candlesticks by a local artist.

    https://ursulabasinger.com/shop

    Might go for it after reading this!

  15. Meredith says...

    In Hobby Lobby this afternoon and had this post on my mind when I wandered into the candle section. . . I am now the proud owner of some pretty blue glass candle sticks and two magic color dripping tapers! Cannot wait for my sister to visit this weekend so we can light them!

  16. Shannon says...

    I grew up in Minnesota, with long, dark, cold winters. My Dad made a habit of lighting candles at the dinner table each night from December through February. It was a perfect way to break up the seasons and is a tradition I look forward to just about the time everyone else starts bemoaning the snow.

  17. Amber Joy says...

    This is so lovely. I always try to make sure a candle is lit, too, whenever we’re eating dinner at the table. So special. 💜

    • Claudia says...

      It’s a game changer. A few months ago whilst visiting Norway I picked up a simple wooden Scandi pair of candlesticks and it has transformed our dinnertimes. Like you, our kids love lighting them and blowing them out. It’s a lovely ritual.

  18. Cherie says...

    Good Will usually has candle sticks for cheap!

  19. Ana says...

    When I was growing up we always had candles on the table for dinner. It was an everyday thing. My father passed away unexpectedly, time went on, and my mother remarried someone who forbid all candles in his house. Thanks for reminding me how lovely family dinner is with candles. I just put candlesticks on my birthday wishlist.

  20. Lisa says...

    Maybe once my kids are past the toddler grabbing / pulling table cloths stage I’ll try this. My current calming thing is to light incense when I’m on my own or the flat smells particularly funky. It’s an incense I read about in an interview with Tracey Ellis Ross so it’s pretty much like I’m hanging out with Diana Ross’ offspring

  21. lili says...

    Learning to light a match was a huge confidence turning point for me as a kid. My mom bough strike anywhere matches and lit a match on her jeans and to a 9 year old NOTHING is cooler *flame emoji*

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      WOW! now i want your mom to do a CoJ match lightning tutorial! :)

  22. Anne says...

    YES! I can’t see candlesticks and not remember the time I had gum grafting surgery. You know, when they sedate you, scrape off the roof of your mouth and graft it to your gums? (Yes, as gross/painful as it sounds.) My husband rolled me out of bed and not only pureed 2-3 food options for my dinner- and himself to eat in solidarity with me- but he lovingly served them by candlelight. Talk about elevating a bummer dinner!

    I hate it when people brag about their spouses on social media but I’m pretty sure I posted a picture on FB.

  23. Lindsey says...

    Absolutely agree. As someone who grew up in cold climates, candles are inherently cozy to me. I have them everywhere in my house, and have recently allowed myself to splurge on the nicer beeswax tapers for my tabletop candlesticks. I always think of the Scandinavian concept of hygge, and just how much candles are a part of it–at school, at home, at work, literally everywhere! They don’t have the same kinds of restrictions on things like that as we do here in the States. I’ve started having a candle in my office, and using a floor lamp instead of my fluorescent overheads, and it feels downright cozy in there now! But there is literally nothing better than candles burning on a kitchen table, tapers growing shorter, conversation continuing, and wine still being poured while the evening grows on. My happiest memories are lit by candelight.

  24. Allison says...

    Growing up I ate many dinners at my best friend’s house where they had every dinner in the dining room with candles lit. To this day I still think about how lovely that dinner ritual was and how special it made an otherwise mundane part of the day. As a bonus my friend’s mother even warmed the dinner plates up in the oven before placing them on the table right before everyone sat down. You don’t realize the little luxury of a warm plate welcoming you to the dinner table until you experience it!

  25. Candles, cloth napkins and fresh flowers, but not fancy. We’ve always done it as well as hold hands and say a quick blessing. As my daughter would say…civilized!

  26. Kara Spencer says...

    Only COJ could get 100 comments and counting about candles. Made my day.

    • L says...

      Right? She’s magic :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha love you guys <3

  27. Dee says...

    This post reminded me of growing up in the Dominican Republic. Reminiscing about growing up in the island almost feels like a dream. Most neighborhoods lose power everyday; sometimes during the day, sometimes during the night. My mother used to light a candle in the living room if we lost power during the night. Everybody would gather in the livingroom, and my grandparents (we lived with them) would share stories about their childhood memories or folk tales they heard as kids. Some stories were funny, some were sad, and some were scary. Candles have a way of bringing us all together regardless of one’s country of origin, culture or socioeconomic status.

  28. Amanda says...

    I light candles every day… at breakfast! After some behavioural difficulties with my cheeky toddler (simultaneously getting the both of us ready for work/daycare was wearing us out). Then one day I actually sat down with her for breakfast, the next day I started lighting candles and our morning instantly chilled out! Now we have candlelight with our oatmeal every morning!

    • Kristie says...

      So sweet – I bet this will be a special childhood memory for your little one!

    • Lynn D. says...

      Yes! yes! having your morning coffee or tea with candles really starts the day off right.

  29. MG says...

    My husband and I have just started living together after having spent the first four years of our marriage apart – working in different cities. It’s wonderful – elaborate weekly menu planning, grocery shopping for two, cooking for two, watching shows together, turning in bed and feeling another body. This past week he has been traveling for work – and I am once again by myself. While I miss him terribly, I am loving this solitary time, cooking for myself, setting the table for 1 , lighting the candles and enjoying my own company.

  30. Mona says...

    When my children were little, I always thought that the dinner table, even with squabbling and spilled milk, was as close to heaven as I would ever get. We lit candles every night. Maybe I copped out, but we used votive candles or tealights in beautiful holders. No drips, and the kids could still blow them out.

  31. yes to candles! and candlesticks! question, where is your dining table from and how many does it seat, max? :)

    • h says...

      Hear! Hear!

  32. Jeanne says...

    I love this. Growing up, my parents would light candles at our dinner table and now that my brother and I are both adults, they’ve told us that they were a life-saver! Apparently, we would settle right down even if we were also buzzing from our day :) I’ve introduced them a few times in my own home and my daughters love it, my husband… not so much. He won’t let me turn off the overhead light because he feels it’s “too dark” (although he loves that atmosphere if we’re out on a date, go figure). Personally I’d love to just have the candles going. During the summer, our dining room gets full afternoon sun so it’s plenty bright. Thanks for sharing this!

  33. MD says...

    For our wedding, a family friend gave my husband and I a set of tea light holders, a bag of a hundred tea lights and giant box of matches along with a note that said “this is one of our favorite family traditions, I hope that it will become one of yours”. Five years in, it has, and coincidentally has become my go to wedding gift. There’s something so nice about it candles at dinner to make it into a little ritual.

    • Hali says...

      So sweet! I love this!!!

  34. Claire says...

    Thanks for the reminder. Candles are magic.

  35. A says...

    Great idea to make the week feel a little more special! At dinner growing up, instead of the loaded question of “how was your day”, my parents always asked us 1) tell us one good thing 2) tell us one bad thing 3) how did you be a helper today, who and how did you help out?

  36. Lindsay says...

    I was on my Marie Kondo mission earlier this year and ran across old candle sticks and thought to myself, ‘I never use these, let me use up the tapered candles in them and then i’ll donate.’ Surprise, they are now a permanent fixture on the table and really make every day feel special.

  37. Carrie says...

    This is so sweet. I have a nice big table for just my husband and I and I’m definitely going in search of candles and candle sticks this weekend. Thank you for the lovely idea, Joanna!

  38. Lydia says...

    My mom used this trick when we were growing up! She realized that moving us to eat dinner in the dining room from the kitchen was a game changer. We used a table cloth, had cloth napkins, and lit candles every single night. She found our manners were better and the whole thing felt more formal in a very good way.

    We still do this when we go to her house. The kids love the candles! Once mine are a little older, I think I’ll do this too.

  39. Sarah says...

    This past winter, I started a candle routine (partially due to bleak Boston winters, but also because we had a ton of pillar candles leftover from our wedding and nowhere to store them). I clustered a couple together on a cheap cork trivet from Ikea, and aside from the cozy glow of the candles on the table, even just the puddled, drippy wax of nearly-spent candles was added some romanticism to the scene (and didn’t ruin the table). And a bonus about the trivet was that I could easily move my little candle cluster to the floor for some candlelight yoga in the evenings.

  40. Karen says...

    It is a bonus that candlelight warms the face and makes everyone look beautiful gathered around it! I love summer nights, dining al fresco by candlelight. The ambiance is dreamy.

  41. Ginger says...

    I have a blended family with three teenagers, and we try to sit down to dinner together at least 3-4 times a week, with candles and real cloth napkins. My father died a year ago, and my neighbor who is a potter, dropped off a little votive holder that she made as a gift. It is her standard gift for neighbors who have had a family member pass away. I light it every time we have a sit down meal, along with the tapers, a way of remembering my dad and thinking of the meals we shared with him as well.

  42. Love this! When we were growing up, whenever we had company over, my mom would light taper candles and put on the George Winston ‘December’ album. It calmed us all down and instantly changed to mood to feel a little fancy and grown up. She would give my sisters and I little tasks like windex-ing the coffee table or setting out the silverware and we all worked together in anticipation. I still put that album on when I am stressed or anxious (often on an airplane!) and it calms me immediately.

  43. Alison says...

    LOVE the coiled ones!!!

  44. carrie says...

    A family friend used to fill her dining room with candles. She would really go over the top with it- just about every space would have a candle all mismatched and collected. She would then describe the dinner “As a ## candle night.” “Oh, for Jim’s birthday we are having a 27 candle night.” It may have seemed excessive but to a little girl it felt SO magical and special.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that!!!!

  45. Jill says...

    I have a mild obsession with collecting vintage candlesticks and keep a few sets on a tray in the center of our dining room table. For some reason, our overhead light gives off SO MUCH HEAT and in the deep months of summer my husband and I can’t bear to turn it on (window ac units can only do so much), so we rely on the candlesticks when we eat dinner. Sometimes we feel like an old renaissance couple, drinking wine and dining by candlelight (while often still sweating and dreaming of a future with central air), but mostly it just feels romantic.

  46. Beautiful idea! On the topic of weeknight dinners, does anyone else feel TOTALLY overwhelmed by the cooking and cleaning aspect of dinner? Last night I was washing dishes at 9:30 and needless to say I was a very grumpy mom.

    • You are not alone :) My sister’s friend triples one meal per week for her family and they eat it all week. Skeptically, I decided to see how it would work for my family. It has been wonderful! I spend so much less time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. There are some tradeoffs as some recipes don’t do very well reheated, but it has been worth it. I thought the monotony of having the same thing for dinner would bother me, but it hasn’t. We also waste less food.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      laura, that’s kind of brilliant. i might have to try it, too. (i secretly love repeating meals!)

    • Kelly says...

      yes to planned leftovers! also, i have a vast repertoire of recipes that require minimal dishes, and I am very strategic while cooking to minimize dishes. If there is any window of cooking time where something does not need to be attended, i am whipping dishes into the dishwasher. And, working on getting my almost 9 year old to help out! ANYTHING to make it so once I come down after getting the kids in bed, the kitchen is clean.

  47. jillian bedell says...

    “I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life. Setting the table. Lighting the candles. Building the fire.” Joan Didion. The Year Of Magical Thinking.

  48. Ellie says...

    I am all about candles, but I find I enjoy them a bit more seasonally. I live in Miami so we don’t have the traditional seasons, but I’ll use candles in fall and winter to create that hygge ambiance. I would say plants and small flower take their place in spring and summer.

  49. ALLIE says...

    Nothing better than candlelight! During the winter months when the mornings are still dark, I’ll light candles while sipping my coffee. Makes the cold mornings a little more special and warm.

  50. Chrissie says...

    “guys, have you heard of CANDLES?” made me literally LOL.

    • Cindy says...

      Same

    • Carla says...

      Same! :D

  51. Kate says...

    I love candlesticks, but I have a really hard time finding good taper candles. Any recommendations?

    • Alex says...

      Ooof me too! Recommendations please

    • AW says...

      I’ve seen some at Whole Foods a while ago, not sure if still there though. Worst comes to worst, I’ve definitely seen them on Etsy

    • CK says...

      Same! They’re either $40 organic beeswax or affordable and melt all over the table in 20 minutes.

    • Heather says...

      Trader Joes has great ones! Plain white dripless danish candles. They really don’t drip! You can find them over by the soap

  52. Nathalie says...

    Did anyone else think of the story “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri? The effect of candlelit dinners on a struggling relationship during a power outage.

    • Cece says...

      yes!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!! loved that story.

  53. Hali says...

    Yikes I accidentally just wrote a small novel dedicated to the humble unscented candle before realizing this actually isn’t my blog!? But it brings me so much joy to see your family doing this. Unscented candles played such a precious part of my childhood I could maybe argue they shaped part of my identity as an adult? I fall squarely in the category of people who very much appreciate a candle that has no scent. (Oh but I do love the smell of beeswax so there’s kind of a scent!) (I also love me a good scented candle too, don’t get me wrong!)

    My teacher from grades 4-8 lit a taper candle on his desk every morning before class began and blew it out when morning lesson was over. The practice was so settling. On your birthday, you got to light the candle and this was a BIG deal, even as a 13-year old.

    My mom always lit two taper candles at our dinner table, I’m sure they were her attempt at adding reverence to dinnertime in a household with four children ages 4-16. It sounds formal but it was the opposite, it was warm. I can still picture the candlesticks from the line of sight of someone about 10 inches taller than the actual table. On Thanksgiving, we got out little plastic rings that dangled crystals around the candleholders and I thought they were absolutely THE fanciest things in the world.

    And every summer my sister and I got to host a fairy party where we covered the outside deck with an entire bag of cheap paraffin IKEA tea lights tucked into whatever jars and drinking glasses we could get our hands on. The effect was nothing short of magical, especially with a crew of little girls in dresses made of silk scarves, eating raspberries from their fingertips. My mom never showed concerned about the dangers of flames and children… kind of stresses me out to think about it.

    There’s definitely an element of sacredness in an unscented candle, especially if they’re lit daily in a casual practice. (Monks and nuns are very much on to something, is what I’m saying.) If anything, the quiet unoffending glow seems to help your memories last a little bit longer and your mind slow down juuuuust a little. So important for kids! Thanks for sharing and the walk down memory lane!

    • jillian bedell says...

      do you want to be best friends?

    • Loved reading this :)

    • Bonnie says...

      Hali – You are my spirit sister! :) I agree with it all, and still tuck tealights in whatever glass jars I have saved around the edges of my garden so I can see them in the dusk/dark at night. A few candles in the bathroom in the morning and evening ensures I slow down. (Don’t ask someone else to blow out a taper unless you’re willing to scrape wax off the tiles after an enthusiastic blow though…)

      More often than not, in the winter, our evenings are spent with the flickering candlelight at dinner and beyond.

      Your teacher – oh, my – that fills my soul. Thank you for sharing!

    • El says...

      I’m planning to integrate a meditation practice into my fall classes (I teach English/writing at a community college) and I’m doing this candle thing. LOVE this idea. :)

  54. alice says...

    I’m definitely going to try this, my household could do with both some calm and focus tuning at the meal table in the evening. I often burn candles in the day for scent while I work and my kids always complain I blow them out when they’re around!

    Side note: am I the only one who had to google MVP??!! It made sense when I saw what it comes from, I’ve never heard that phrase in the U.K. I prefer it to best player, or man of the match which is so outdated. Especially when our national team is always outperforming their male counterparts in international matches which means longer duration of commentary and more discussion on the news). Anyway, thought I’d share the rabbit hole you uncovered for me this morning :)

  55. Denise says...

    I like to think of a candle at dinner as a vestige of the time when our ancestors would gather to eat around a fire. I think it’s in our DNA :)
    Growing up, our family often had a lit candle for everyday dinners.
    There’s something intimate about candlelight, not to mention it’s so flattering!

  56. I’m starting a family soon and I would love to add this to our daily dinner. We’re getting in the habit now of setting dinner even if it just the two of us, so this would be a lovely touch.

    • liz says...

      sounds like you already have a family : )

  57. Erin says...

    My mom always had candles at dinner in the winter when I was growing up. I remember thinking it was funny how FANCY dinner guests thought we were as a result. 😀

  58. Morgan says...

    I love this idea! Where do you get your long stem candles from? I’ve noticed the few places I’ve looked that they are a little expensive.

    Thank you as always, Joanna : )

  59. Karlene says...

    We do this too! It’s so weird – we started it randomly because we had a candlestick gifted to us and it transformed our family dinners SO much (basically from dreadful and always ending with someone in tears – seriously – to a happy ritual everyone has a role in and feels grounded by). This is especially important for us because 2-3 nights a week my husband does dinner solo with our boys since I work late nights; there’s something about maintaining the same pattern every night that I think helps our kids when something (or someone) is missing. We swear by it and tell all our friends, who I’m sure think we are crazy!

  60. Carol Wayne says...

    I am with Chris…where is that wonderful table from???

  61. Sarah Beth says...

    On the note of “how was your day” being too big a question for little kids, I’ve found asking extremely specific questions is the key. My 3yo recently started a new preschool, and my husband was so surprised I knew so much about her days, bc she doesn’t tell him anything. The key is not, “what did you do today,” but “what animal was in the water table?” Or “were there raisins at snack time?” A really specific question prompts her to tell me all about how the water table had dirt in it today, or what she did with her leftover cereal. It works for older kids, too— my parents were shocked that I was the only person my 14yo sister called from her recent trip from France. It’s bc I told her that I wanted to know what she ate, and if there was as much yogurt in the grocery as the last time I went to France! This would probably work with adults, too! Icebreaker: how much yogurt does your grocery sell!

    • Danielle says...

      The yogurt question made me laugh so much because I just had this thought in the supermarket yesterday. I’m dairy free so I’ve got my own little yogurt section, but I was buying school lunch supplies for my stepson and was momentarily floored by the sheer VOLUME of yogurt options. So many flavours! So many consistencies! So much confusion. Turns out I nailed the flavours, but it was the wrong brand/size.

      Visiting supermarkets in foreign countries is one of my favourite weird tourist moments. I’m so intrigued by the day to day of other people’s lives!

    • Myfanwy says...

      France has has almost 2 aisles of yoghurt!! It always amazes me (and drives a French anti-dairy friend mad).

  62. Kamina says...

    Candles are magic. We recently moved from a very sunny part of the world to a city where the winters are actually cold. And dark. Our new house has a chimney that is bricked in and can’t actually be used, but we filled a ceramic baking dish with candles and put it in the fireplace. I CANNOT BELIEVE how much of a difference this makes to our evenings at home. We light those candles and I’m suddenly inspired to put on a jazz record and hunker down in a pile of cosy blankets. Lighting a candle gives everything a special quality!

    • Katie says...

      This is an incredibly genius hack!!! We just moved out of a home with a fireplace into one without and I was mourning the loss of that this winter but a ceramic baking dish filled with candles feels so special!

    • Laura C. says...

      Now I would love to see your candles in the fireplace Kamina!

  63. Michelle says...

    Have your boys learned the trick where you blow a candle out and hold a lit match above the candle in its smoke trail to relight it? Somehow the flame travels down the smoke to the wick – this still delights me as an adult.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      What?? No! That’s so cool! Thanks for sharing:)

    • Tari says...

      Omg I just tried this and I’m delighted! Never ever seen that before! :) Thank you for sharing.

    • rach says...

      what! mind blown! trying this!

  64. jade lees says...

    I started lighting candles for dinner when I first moved out of home (half way across the world) and lived by myself. Cooking for one and eating at a table alone could sometimes seem dreary coming from a family where the dinner table will always be the nucleus of our home. It is a lovely daily treat.

  65. Angie MacRae says...

    And those chairs please!

  66. Having candles lit at dinner makes my three young children about 40% better behaved—every time. I hoard Ana candles (which are getting harder to find but The Company Store has them) because, stripes!

  67. Jenn VanDerwerken says...

    Such a good idea! If parenting has taught me anything, it’s that making a little ceremony or special ritual out of a mundane task is the key to finding joy in everyday life. I started doing things like this for my kids, but I’ve come to count on it as much if not more than them. If we make our own pizza and popcorn and rent a Redbox movie every Friday and call it “Movie Night!!!” it solves a what-to-have-for-dinner conundrum and gives them something to look forward to at the end of a long week. They think it’s so special. Tomorrow is the last day of school and I’m surprising both of my boys with freshly re-stocked “go bags” of new art supplies and fresh drawing pads for restaurants, nature field guides, and sunscreens for all our summer adventures. We made a pretty Summer Bucket List to hang on the fridge, which is in all honesty just a glorified to-do list/events calendar. None of this is big, fussy stuff—we just build in a little ceremony or surprise element. But I find if I suffuse things with a dash of extra enthusiasm, I fall under the same spell I’m trying to weave for them.

    • Melisa says...

      This is so lovely! My daughter is still too young to really notice these kinds of things (8 months) but I’ll be remembering this when she and any potential siblings get old enough.

    • lulu says...

      Jenn your ‘go bags’ sound like such a sweet idea. We have holidays coming up and I might just make a go bag for each of my kids for their holidays!

    • Lauren E. says...

      This is so sweet. The little mundane things are the things I remember most from childhood – the donut I was allowed to have after church service, my dad packing us into the car in PJs to go watch the nighttime lightning storm over the lake, being allowed to stay up late in the summer and go swimming when it was especially hot because we didn’t have AC. Sometimes my mom will bemoan our lack of money when she and my dad were raising us, and I truly had no idea we were broke. We had so much fun!

    • jane says...

      This is how to cherish and make daily life meaningful – great inspiration, thanks!

  68. Katherine says...

    Thanks for a fun, easy and sweet idea to mix things up in our everyday lives!

  69. rach says...

    gosh! that picture of you is just GORGEOUS! You look SO happy <3

  70. YESSSS!!! I’ve always felt that no matter how “everyday” a day might seem, candlelight at the table pauses us and helps us shift our busy minds to a slower, more relaxed pace. Even if it’s takeout Thai eaten on a blanket on the floor. What matters is the ritual of it all :) I figure, another meal eaten is another day celebrated!

  71. Alexa says...

    I’ll raise you one: the only thing dreamier than candles at dinner are candles at breakfast! :)

    • Anna says...

      Yes — in the dark winter mornings I’ll often light a candle (I’ve seen this done in Denmark and Sweden).

  72. K says...

    When dinners are feeling stale, I’ll light a few candles, too. My boys call it Fancy Dinner. And they always stay through the dinner and after they clear their plate they get to blow out the candles. I never seem to have Fancy Dinner when I make an actual fancy dinner. But pancakes (from the box!) and bacon by candlelight make it look like I actually have it together.

  73. Emma says...

    As a Dane, I really couldn’t live without candles! Even after many years of living abroad. They are a fixture on the dinner table, the breakfast table, all around the living room in the evenings. Even as I sit here right now, at home by myself, working – I have a couple of candles lit next to my computer. Candles completely change the atmosphere, and even when you’re alone, it’s such a simple way to add a bit of ‘hygge’ to your day.

    • Yes! My mom is from Denmark, and growing up we had candles lit every night on our table. She lights candles for her breakfast table and for coffee too. It’s so funny how the concept of hygge has translated here.

  74. Carol B says...

    Yes, I get it! My mom lit taper candles for most of our family’s evening meals. I forgot how it totally changed the mood of your day until I remembered the tradition (25 years later!) and started it in our home last year. If you’re looking for well quality taper candles that burn nicely, check out Root Candles. They are unscented, available in every color under the sun, and burn very evenly.

    • Joana says...

      I remember the first weekend I visited my now in-laws, they had candles on for EVERY MEAL! Breakfast, lunch, cake and coffee (pretty normal on lazy weekends in Germany) and dinner (Abendbrot). When we moved in together, we adopted that ritual straight away but just for the evenings. Fast forward over a decade later, add two kids to the mix, we still do it (had to stop when kids were very small and throwing food/plates/cutlery/etc, but now getting back to it). I don’t think it reduces the amount of tantrums for us, but it sets the right tone (intimate, relaxing, sacred) and gives me something warm and beautiful to look at when things go sour…
      My in-laws still do it, candles (and fresh flowers or greens from their garden), every meal.
      Life goals ;)

  75. Hilary says...

    Aw that’s a sweet tradition! I miss candles- I would always have them burning on our coffee table, but with a little one toddling around they’ve been put away. Dinner table candles could be the perfect solution!

  76. dawn says...

    Bonus round- I found I could finely chop many things and add them to the meal thanks to the low light situation with candles (at least in winter)…

  77. Jill says...

    Since my boys were teeny tiny (they are now 13 and 9) we’ve lit candles and lowered the lights at every dinner and listened to jazz standards. Every. Night. It elevates even the most mundane dinner and makes us all feel like an honored guest at our table. I imagine (hope?) that one day, long after they have left us, they will be at a dinner in a city far away with low, candle-lit lighting and jazz standards and feel closer to home.

  78. Vicki says...

    Love that analogy about kids asking kids how their day was being the same as how was the past 20 years?!!
    Two years ago we went on a three week cross country trip with lots of family fun, I knew my boys had enjoyed it but when we got home I asked them what their favorite part was and got crickets… my heart fell. Then I realized the question was too big and I asked what was your favorite hotel? And words started flowing!! We went on to best fast food place, snack, National park, pool and more! They loved the trip as much as I did, they just needed a little help sorting through their experiences.

  79. Kara says...

    We started lighting candles at our dinner table five years ago, after an older, dear friend of mine lit some one night when we had dinner, just the two of us, at her house. My kids love it. They dim the lights (sometimes). They take turns blowing them out. Neighbor kids ask for them when they happen to be over for dinner, too. I love this post! I wrote about ours briefly here: http://www.pleiadesbee.com/2014/01/the-dinner-table.html

    • Angela says...

      So sweet! Love the Michael J Fox quote at the end. It was perfect! I’ve been looking for some candle sticks, but I’m inspired to look harder.

  80. Sophia F. says...

    One of my top mom tips also relies on the magic of candles: ‘spa bath.’ When one or both of my kids (almost six and almost four) has a rough day, we offer a spa bath: bubbles, a bluetooth speaker in the bathroom playing Enya (yes!) or spa music, dimmed lights, and crucially, a candle. It’s made a huge difference for our family, especially for our anxiety prone older kid. The combination of warm water, soothing music, and the yellow, flickering candlelight can make playground troubles, unkind words, and sibling stress evaporate. Our kids emerge relaxed, happy, and ready for ready for a restful nights’ sleep.

  81. Lucy says...

    When we were growing up, my little brother was so fussy at mealtimes. In order to get him to eat, my mom would light a candle between each bite and then let him blow it out as a “reward.” The things we do as parents ;)

  82. I first discovered the magic of candles during dinner when I studied abroad in Copenhagen – where it was basically MANDATORY to have nonscented candles lit during dinner (aka hygge). My host family would pop open a bottle of wine and light candles (5,6,7 — many!!) and I remember always thinking, damn- you Danes know how to do dinner!! It feels so romantic to sit around the table with full bellies and that pretty candle light cast onto people’s faces. Filed under small pleasures. :)

  83. M says...

    Totally agree! Candlesticks are my go-to wedding gift and I always keep my eyes peeled for unique pairs!

  84. Kristen says...

    A few years ago, we could not keep our two squirmy little boys at the table, so we tried lighting candles to reinforce that there is a beginning and end to dinner. It wasn’t a magic cure all for the wiggles, but it really does add something magical to a regular old meal — especially in the dark evenings of the Pacific NW. We also got a cheap candle snuffer and it cracks me up how desperately our kids BEG to use it to put out the candles.

    • emily says...

      Love this idea for mrking the beginning and end for the littles!

  85. Caitlin says...

    I can totally see this setting the tone for a calmer dinner! In the winter I keep several candles/tea candles on our coffee table and dining room table. Makes the dark, gloomy, cold days seem more cozy and bearable. Even just watching tv, with all those candles lit, feels good.

  86. Anya says...

    For as long as I can remember, my mom has had a beeswax pillar candle on the kitchen table (where we ate most of our meals while I was growing up), and candlesticks on the dining room table (for when we had too many guests to fit comfortably in the kitchen). It makes everything feel warm and cozy and like the meal is a moment apart from the rest of the day. On dreary winter mornings, we even had the candle going at breakfast. I can hardly imagine my mom without it, and when I light table candles in my own apartment now, it makes it feel like home.

  87. Ann says...

    We’ve found the same magic of candles in our evening meals. Our three-year-old loves them and always asks to blow them out. I find them especially joyful in the winter, when the darkness comes early. Incidentally, using cloth napkins (even for toddlers!) adds a similar feeling of peace and civility.

    • rach says...

      yes! we only use cloth napkins!

    • celeste says...

      Agree! We light candles for advent but somehow this doesn’t translate to other parts of the year. Would be fun.

    • Andrea says...

      Celeste–LOL we have cats, so even our Advent candles are now battery powered!

  88. Aw, this made me reminisce! My mom used to light candles for dinner — not every night, but on occasion, and I agree it made such a difference. Just having candles to light our meals on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday would really spruce up our moods! My younger brother would really go for it and insist all the lights be turned off, too. (And, since all the lights were off and we couldn’t see our food as well, we didn’t complain about all those dreaded mushrooms!)

    • Heather says...

      I love candles in the cold months and fire pits by the outdoor dining in the summertime. Can you tell me about your dining table?

    • G says...

      HAHAHAHAHA!

  89. jane says...

    Love this idea. I fell in love with candles at the table when a housemate from Germany would light one at the breakfast table every single morning. It is an amazing way to set the tone for the day and I’d forgotten about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Breakfast candles sound so dreamy!

    • rachel says...

      Yes! I lit a candle on this rainy Monday morning for a bath before work. It’s so easy to save all of the lovely self-care moments for weekends. Why not on a Monday morning?

      Joanna, could you share where you got the large print behind you in the family photo? I love abstract geometric art these days.

    • Elena says...

      This past school year I started lighting a candle at breakfast for my five-year-old daughter. It is the calm in our morning chaos and I think all of us respond to it, even if we’re not sitting at the table. I hope she remembers it fondly when she is grown.

  90. jj says...

    you literally wrote a short essay about candles.
    and I love it.
    you can do no wrong.

  91. shannon says...

    Agree!! We have two vintage pewter candlesticks on the dining table that were $1 each at a salvage shop. I put some basic ivory unscented tapers from Target in them. Even if it’s leftovers or toast and eggs, lighting the candles and putting on a jazz station from Spotify makes dinner feel like a special, romantic moment.

    • Leah says...

      Yes! We mostly do votives around our house and have found lots of different candle-holders at St. Vinny’s for 50¢ apiece!

  92. Chris says...

    Joanna, where is your amazing table from? I love it!