Home » Candle fever strikes as blackout-fearing Germans revive festive flames
Christmas Entertaiment Germany

Candle fever strikes as blackout-fearing Germans revive festive flames

The country has been told the chances of power cuts are low, but demand for old-school wax lighting is hot

Germans are seeking comfort in the warm yellow glow of open flames this Christmas, as a revival of festive traditions coupled with blackout fears make candles the target of the latest stockpiling frenzy.

On Sunday, many German households will follow tradition to light the first of four candles on their Adventskranz wreath, which is typically laid on or hung above the dining-room table.

But as fears of gas rationing and power cuts brought by Russia’s war in Ukraine stalk the land, candles have also undergone a revival as a reliable way to light homes. The home improvement retail chain Bauhaus said it was noticing a rising demand for “candles of all kind, including tea lights, wax and pillar candles”, with sales across the board up by around a quarter on the previous winter.

As the consumer protection association Environmental Action Germany (DUH) urged citizens to forgo US-style “lighting orgies” and leave their LED fairy lights in the attic this year, some Christmas tree vendors have started offering real candles as more energy-efficient alternatives to electric lights.

The public broadcaster ARD recently released a short video advising people against building DIY “tealight ovens” to heat their homes. The heat generated, it warned, was negligible compared with the potential fire risk.

Rising demand for candles was already one noticeable side-effect of people spending more time at home during the pandemic, said a spokesperson for the European Candle Manufacturers Association, with continent-wide sales jumping markedly between 2020 and 2021.

“We didn’t quite know what to expect this year,” said Ann-Kristin Müller of Müller Kerzen, a western German candle-making business operating across Europe. “But it seems to be the case that people are stocking up on candles ahead of an uncertain winter.

“My family has worked in the candle industry for eight generations, and it is turning out that ours is a very crisis-resistant business. In times of trouble, people yearn for the comfort of a flickering flame.”

After two years of booming sales, the Bavarian candlemaker Gala had also anticipated sales dipping back to pre-pandemic levels. “But all this talk about blackouts has encouraged people to stockpile, so we haven’t noticed a difference,” it said.

Germany’s federal office for civil protection and disaster assistance this week stated that a “large-scale power blackout in Germany is extremely unlikely” this winter. The likelihood of regional power cuts was also low, the country’s network regulator said, since numerous mechanisms were in place to stabilise the grid in the case of temporary shortages.

But Gala’s chief executive, Thomas Schröder, said booming candle sales also spoke of a broader cultural trait. “There has always been a deep German yearning for an austere type of Gemütlichkeit or snugness, of humans gathering around a naked flame,” he said. “That’s why you still have people like me, who insist on lighting their Christmas tree with real candles rather than fairy lights, with a bucket of water at the ready for emergencies.”

The vast majority of Germans used electric lights on their trees, Schröder conceded, a trend that was unlikely to be bucked this year. The German Insurance Association, an umbrella organisation of private insurers, reports a steady decline of fire-related claims in December since 2015.

Source: The Guardian