Family Tradition at Christmas

Christmas is a time for family traditions to be pulled out of boxes and bags and displayed around the home. This story is about my family tradition that started before I was born in 1947.

For every year as far back as I can remember, I would find a small wax angel, choir singer, tree, snowman or Santa Claus candle in my stocking. It was always a surprise to see what Santa left (little did I know back then it was Grandma who helped Santa find these wonderful little gifts).

Although they were candles, we would not burn them but, rather, put them under the tree in our Christmas village.


Top: Gurley Candle Collection 2007 with more coming in 2008.
Bottom: 2008 additions including boxes from early Socony Mobil candles.

As the years passed and my sister was born, two little candles appeared in our stockings. Needless to say, we amassed quite a collection.

It never mattered that the price of each candle was printed on the bottom. Those 10, 15, 25 and 50 cent candles were purchased with love at F.W. Woolworths, our local five and dime store.  It was not the price that was important,  it was the gift of love that came with them.

I am now in my sixties. Grandma and most of my family members are no longer around to share the holidays. Ten years ago a wonderful man entered my life. During our first Christmas together, I placed my candle collection lovingly under the tree as I had done for many years and told him this story.  To my surprise, the next year my collection grew by a dozen choir singers. He, too, had some candles and he gave them to me.

And so it goes…together we have been collecting Gurley holiday candles.  Each year the collection has grown a little bigger. We find them at antique fairs, tag sales, antique stores, and some were gifts. That 10 cent item from 1948 can display an $8-$15 price tag in 2008. We have seen those 25 cent green trees and church steeples bowing under the heat from peoples’ attics, but have made them straight again with gentle heat over the stove burner.

This Christmas our collection numbers about 150 candles.  Large and small angels, trees, choir singers, churches, reindeer, snowmen, and a host of other Gurley candles have been collected over this decade. If you look on the internet under Gurley Candles there is some additional information. The original company started in Buffalo, New York. Gurley partnered with the Socony Vacuum Oil Company of Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. These older candles displayed the Socony Mobil name and were called "tavern candles." Many of Grandma’s angels were bought way before I was born, so today I have many candles dating back to those early years. During the 1950s the name changed to Gurley Novelty Company.

As I look forward to yet another Christmas, my heart gets excited to know that my candle collection will be unwrapped from its boxes (kept cool in the basement) and displayed for another year.  As you can see, my collection no longer fits under the tree, but has a prominent place in our home for the holidays.

I am looking for more information about these wonderful little candles. If you or a family member worked for the Gurley Candle Company back in the 50s, please feel free to contact me at I would love to get some additional information about these waxy antique treasures.

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About the Author: Anita Wilson