Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or the winter solstice, there's no doubt that the seasonal festivities surrounding winter's longest night (this year's comes tomorrow, Friday, December 21) are all aimed at bringing a little light into our lives. How better to do this than with candles -- which also make an excellent last-minute holiday gift? NOW fires up some of this season's most brilliant.
Ma Zone (473A Church, 416-934-9400) offers compact and affordable Twin candle holders -- designed to hold skinny tapers as well as regular-sized candles -- for $6 each, with boxes of six slim candles $10 each (1). They make a major impact with a small budget, like the oval cutout holder from Urban Outfitters (2, $9.99, 235 Yonge, 416-214-1466).
Shaped candles like Alchemy's multicoloured rainbow snakes (3, $12 a pair) and beautiful burning Buddha (4, $12, 323 Danforth, 416-466-5100) pack lots of fun. Gel candles that look like a flaming glass of herbal tea (5, $20, Elan, 199 Danforth, 416-406-3629) are another hot novelty, but be careful not to light aromatherapy candles around people with fragrance allergies!
You can buy some truly amazing candle holders. Lily Lee's contemporary Chorus candelabra is a knockout at $50 (6, 261 Danforth, 416-461-1017). One of our faves, an Indonesian silver-plate dragon, is pricey at $169 (7, Haven, 498 Queen West, 416-504-1251) but spectacular. Haven's cast iron monkey (8, shown holding a wax orb from El Pipil, $5 a pair, 267 Danforth, 416-465-9625) is a relative bargain at $14.95. Chinatown emporium B&J Trading (378 Spadina, 416-586-9655) can be counted on for some of the best deals in town, like novelty jigsaw-puzzle-shaped holders, $1.99 each (9, and $.59 for the tea lights to put in them!). The fuchsia-, pink-, orange- and red-festooned holder from Urban Outfitters (10, $16) packs major pop appeal.
Elan sells powerfully scented -- and lovely to look at -- 9-inch tear-shaped pillar candles (11, $25), in a variety of colours (shown: amber), while Electika Designs' happy-face tea lights perk up any party (12, $2.95 each, 618 Queen West, 416-681-0382).
Eco-product retailer Grass Roots (Carrot Common, 416-466-2841, and others) stocks a selection of extremely long-burning natural beeswax candles. Tapers (not shown, $8 a pair) burn for 10 hours, while more decorative items like a grapefruit-sized orb (13, $43) will last 300 to 400 hours. Really!
Elan's multicoloured, textured Canelle Spice has a hobbity appeal (14, Elan, $39.95). If your taste runs to minimalist elegance, try a layered white candle on a simple wooden base (15, $25, Ma Zone). And Urban Outfitters' hippy retro lotus holder comes in a kaleidoscope of hues (16, $19).