How to Make Holiday Candles

How to make holiday candles goes right along with general candle making. It takes ordinary candle making a step farther, however, and encompasses color, scent, decorations, and holders. There are hundreds of different ways to make holiday candles. The decorations, color, scent, and holders should reflect the holiday, your personal taste, and perhaps the taste of the person who will be using the candle – especially if you are making the candles to use as gifts. 

So, let’s say that again, just to be clear

How to make holiday candles builds on the basics of candle making, but incorporates color, scent, decorations, and holders to make memorable gifts, party favors, or decorations for your home, party, or event. Candles can be dipped, molded, or container, and can be made from a variety of waxes, including beeswax, vegetable waxes, tallow, or paraffin. Cost, ecology, sustainability, and ventilation are considerations. 

Hand-dipped Candles

There is something super special about hand dipped candles. They usually burn longer, drip less, and are less prone to tunneling than any of the other candle types. They are time consuming to make, and require a little skill (but not too much) to gauge the amount of time that the candle should be in the hot wax to add the next layer. 


You can make a set of candles unique by adding scent that is appropriate to the season or to the user. Essential oils added to the wax are a good way to make scented candles; or you can use commercial candle scents by adding the wax squares to the rest of your candle. When adding essential oil or melting to your dipping wax, note how it changes the consistency of your wax.


Commercial wax kits often have color additives as part of the kit. You can also purchase them separately. However, an inexpensive, easy way to change color is to add a wax crayon to the mix. This will usually result in a pastel color, but you can add more than one crayon to the mix. Keep in mind that most crayon sets are made from paraffin wax, so you will be lowering the ecological standards of your craft. 

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How to Make Holiday Candles

Seasonal flower petals, bark, or spices can be added to hand dipped candles. You can incorporate the substance into the dipping mixture, but a better idea is to press the decorations into the wax while it is still malleable. Test candles with this kind of additive outdoors before burning them inside your home or giving them as gifts, since the substance can change the way, the candle burns. When testing, it is a good idea to keep a large box of baking soda at hand just in case you need to douse the candle. 

Wax choices

Hand-dipped candles need to dry to a hardened shape. Beeswax is probably the king of all dipping waxes, but many people have reservations about using it. For example, it is not a good vegan choice because it is produced by living creatures. Other people have become alarmed by the methods of bee farming for wax. Tree waxes are next on the list of desirable dipping waxes, and are often mixed with beeswax, soy or paraffin because they are so hard, they are not easy to ignite. Vegetable waxes such as bayberry, candelilla, or soy are often used. Paraffin is cheap, but is prone to giving off pollutants since it is a petroleum product. You can even resort to animal products, such as tallow or lard. These choices have been examined elsewhere on this website, and would make this article far too long to go into here. Suffice it to say, that all of them, plus others, have been used to make hand dipped candles. 

Molded Candles

Molded candles are usually easier to make than dipped candles. But not all molded candles are created equal. There are so many ways to mold a candle, ranging from the good, old hippie methods such as creating a hollow in the sand on a beach, or using a milk carton as the outside mold, to far more sophisticated methods such as shaped molds into which the melted wax can be poured. 


A good wick will help hand dipped candles burn well but is essential for molded candle success. Wicking that is too small for a molded candle will certainly cause wax puddling which leads to a disappointing burn quality. If the wicking is too large, it will consume the wax fuel too quickly, again leading to a disappointing burn time. Wicking for molded candles can range from a standard three-braid commercial wick to twigs embedded in the wax. Cherry twigs are a frequent choice. 

Scent and Color

These can be managed in much the same way as adding scent and color to dipped candles. However, the essential oil or color medium to wax is not quite as critical as for hand dipped candles. Still, it is a good idea to experiment a little before making up a large batch of a mixture. 


An easy way to decorate molded candles is to place flower petals, bits of spice, small stones, or even little heat resistant charms or toys in the sides of the mold. You can roll the mold around with a small amount of wax in it – enough to coat the sides – and embed your embellishments in it before adding the rest of your wax. Sometimes, your decorations can be part of the scent or color additives.

Wax Choices

Depending on whether the mold will remain with the candle or whether it will be removed, you might be able to use a softer wax than you would for dipped candles. However, if the candle is a large, free-standing item, you might want to use one of the harder waxes mixed with a slightly softer wax.

Container Candles

How to Make Holiday Candles

With a container candle, the holder is largely the decoration. Like molded candles, the wick choice is crucial for success. If the wick is too small, the candle will puddle. If it is too large, the fuel will burn up too quickly. 

In some ways, container candles are almost small lamps. It is a prudent choice if you are using a hardened oil, such as vegetable shortening or tallow because they will keep the fuel, if you will pardon the redundancy of expression, contained. A button lamp, for example, is a sort of candle using a liquid oil that will float a “button” that can stabilize the wick. Butter or olive oil are popular choices for this type of “candle.”

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some good things to think about before giving a holiday candle as a gift?
There are several things to consider before giving a holiday candle as a gift. Here are just a few:
  • Whether the person lives in a place that live candles are allowed. Dormitories and some apartment buildings ban burning candles.
  • Allergies. For example, while dragon’s blood – a type of tree resin – is often used in incense or to scent candles, some people are allergic to it.
  • Personal taste. Are you giving something that the person will enjoy and use or are you quickly picking up something that is easy to gift wrap.

Are all naturally sourced waxes ecological?

Sadly, they are not. This is a case of which wax, grown where, harvested how. For example, you might think that beeswax is ecological. However, some types of bee farming is cruel to these industrious little insects and might further exacerbate concerns about keeping them from extinction. Some types of tree wax, such as carnauba, can be overharvested causing the death of the tree. Even soy, which is certainly a renewable source, can be rough on the land where it is grown. It is best to say that some waxes are better than others and some companies are more conscientious than others. Human awareness of our impact on the world changes from day to day, as well. 

Candlelight is traditionally romantic. What are some alternatives to candles if you live in a place that does not allow live flame?

Electrical or battery powered candles are an excellent alternative to live flame candles. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles, ranging from tea lights to realistic pillar candles. While they might not have the lovely aroma of a beeswax candle, for example, they also create far less mess. Some can be powered with rechargeable batteries, cutting down on different kinds of clutter. Others, like the strings of electric light for your winter holiday decorations, can be plugged directly into a standard household electrical outlet. These last are great for that “candle in the window” seasonal effect. Some models are somewhat stodgy, but others have flickering light effects and even come with a remote that can act as a dimmer or change in flicker styles or colors. 

I like real candles and I can have them where I live. What is the best way to select candles that have a small ecological footprint?

As previously stated, our awareness of the world around us changes. Your best bet is to visit your local whole foods or wellness retailers in your area. Ask questions about where they got their candles. Seek out local sources for wax or candles, especially small businesses that grow their own materials, and check the “endangered” or “threatened” species lists often. 

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