Old Salem Moravian Candle Tea: A timeless, treasured tradition

Video Credit to Home Moravian

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“Single Brothers’ House, Old Salem, Winston-Salem, NC” by w_lemay is marked with CC0 1.0 The Single Brothers’ house hosts the Moravian Candle Tea, organized by the Home Moravian Church, every year. Families come to witness candle making, sing Christmas carols, and eat Moravian delicacies.

Anna Hunt, Rooster Reporter

Since 1929, the Moravian Candle Tea at Old Salem has been a beloved tradition for many people living in and around the Winston-Salem area. Hosted in the Single Brothers’ house, guests are able to witness the sights and smells of early Moravian Christmas traditions.

Knowledgeable guides dressed in early Moravian attire lead large groups of people through the Single Brothers’ house where they can witness candles being made, sing Christmas carols and taste delicious Moravian bread and coffee, among other things.

Even though I have been to the candle tea three or four consecutive years in a row, I still absolutely love going and I was bummed when I heard they weren’t hosting it this year. 

“I think the Moravian Candle Tea is an extraordinary experience, and is a staple of Christmas in Winston-Salem.” said sophomore Kate Vogler. 

Arriving early is the key. Although many people are allowed to enter at once, this is quite a popular attraction and the line grows long very quickly. Thankfully, the good news is that there are a few lovely shops and a bakery to help pass the time. Admission last year was $5 for adults, and $1 for children twelve and under.

Once inside the Single Brothers’ house, a guide will quickly provide some background information about the early Moravians and their traditions. Next, the group is herded into a large chapel room with an authentic refurbished 1797 Tannenberg organ to sing classic Christmas carols including many favorites such as Silent Night, O Come all Ye Faithful, and Morning Star.

Afterwards is the fascinating candle making demonstration. Women in various stages of candle production will speak about their role in boiling the beeswax, adding the strings, pouring the candle wax, cooling the wax or decorating the finished candles. Candles of various sizes with a red fringe are available for purchase after the tour or in the stores. 

A Moravian kitchen, hot coffee and sugar bread tasting follow, as well as a wintery “putz,” or a miniature snowy model of a late 1800’s Old Salem. At the end of the tour is a large nativity scene as well as a verbal narration of the nativity scene. The whole tour takes about an hour and a half to completion.

My favorite part of the tour is when we sit in the warm kitchen and eat Moravian sugar bread and drink coffee. The sugary Moravian bread is a family favorite, so my mom and I purchased the Do-It-Yourself bread mix at the bakery to make it at home. It turned out delicious!

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, the traditional candle tea was not hosted this year. However, on Dec. 5, 11 and 12, there was an outdoor “Drive By” on Salem Square hosted by the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church. Hopefully by next Christmas the tradition can continue as normal.

Due to Covid-19, Candle Tea 2020 may not be like other recent years.”  said Home Moravian Church according to MyWinstonSalem. “Plans are being made to offer a Candle Tea that will help keep people safe while sharing as many Moravian Christmas traditions as possible.”

The Moravian Candle Tea is not just about bread and candles, it is an appreciation of Moravian culture and how Christmas influences it. Learning about how the early Moravians used to live is educational and humbling, and allows us to be grateful for what we have and how we live. 

Going 90 years strong, the Moravian Candle Tea usually draws around 10,000 visitors from all over the state in normal years. Profits from the candle tea are used to benefit charitable causes locally and globally, and donations to keep the tradition going are always welcome.

Although coronavirus put a damper on the usual Moravian Candle Tea activities, the normal festivities will hopefully be up and running smoothly by next Christmas. It truly is a wonderful tradition as well as a blast from the past, and it has something for everyone to enjoy. I will definitely go back next year, and not just for the sugar bread.