This Christmas eve at church, I looked down in my hand and realized something. For virtually every single Christmas Eve in my 49 years, wherever I was, in whatever church I was, I was handed exactly this: a small white candle with a paper guard that read “Candlelight Service: Muench-Kreuzer Candle Co. Syracuse, N.Y.” And the candle that I have been handed every year is exactly the same, and so is the printing on the paper guard.
In Christian churches all over the USA and probably farther afield than that, on Christmas eve, congregants get handed these little candles, which they light one by one from a central flame while singing “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”) until everyone is singing in a dark sanctuary lit only by these candles. That must be many millions of candles over the many decades of the tradition.
The moment I was contemplating this, last night, I remarked aloud, “Who are the Muench-Kreuzer Candle Company of Syracuse, New York?” and immediately, right in front of me, was a couple who are almost 80 years old, who happily told me that they both grew up in Syracuse, and that they have seen the Muench-Kreuzer Candle Company factory many times. It is at least a hundred years old, they told me. Apparently, when they built the interstate highway through Syracuse, they built a ramp for it, leaving the Muench-Kreuzer Candle Company factory undisturbed.
What a strange and wonderful business they must have. I assume they sell something other than these millions and millions of completely identical and disposable small white candles which are only used one night of the year, every year. But the fact that the design of the candles and even the Spartan artwork on the paper guards has essentially never changed — that means that they must have found themselves a niche and held onto it for dear life for a century.
Then there’s the name. “Muench” and “Kreuzer” are proper surnames for German-American immigrants. “Muench” means “monk”, and “Kreuzer” means “crusader”, and comes from the same German root word as the word for “cross”. So it’s the Monk-Cross liturgical candle company. That worked out well.
I have deliberately not Googled the Muench-Kreuzer Candle Co. of Syracuse, N. Y. before writing this reverie. Now maybe I will.
Don’t spill hot wax down your hand and arm next Christmas eve. And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Added December 29, 2013
Sadly, the era has already ended. I came across a newspaper article from April, 2012 that says that the Muench-Kreuzer Candle Company, started in 1925, shut down its Syracuse factory, and the article implied but did not explicitly state that the company was out of business. The factory building in Syracuse was sold, and was to be renovated for loft apartments, although they promised to keep the historical exterior.
A further chronicaling of the decline of the company is found in another article from the same Syracuse newspaper dated May 10, 2010.