Convent welcomes guests to buy, make candles at festival

STANWOOD — Step into the Quiet Light Candles shop this time of year and the first things you’ll notice are the rich scents of pure beeswax and fresh-baked cookies.

You’ll also notice the light, both from candles in multicolored glass chandeliers and the overheads, reflecting off the hand-made glassware, polished stones and geodes. High on the wall are icons of saints, including the candle shop’s own patron, St. Phanourios.

The centerpiece is a Nativity Cave near the door, featuring an icon depicting the birth of Christ as well as animal figurines carved from olive wood from Bethlehem.

It’s a warm and welcoming environment for the 12th annual Quiet Light Christmas Festival. Quiet Light Candles, located at the Convent of the Meeting of the Lord in Stanwood, welcomes the community in not just for shopping, but also to learn about and try a hand in candlemaking, interact with the Sisters and volunteers at the convent.

The idea is to offer an atmosphere of peace and joy – which is the true message of Christmas, said Mother Thecla, the abbess of the convent. It’s a mission the Sisters take to heart.

“God became Man out of love for us, we hope our lives reflect that love no matter what we’re doing,” Mother Thecla said.

The convent is home to three Orthodox Sisters, two of whom came here from their sister convent in Boston in 1999. They practice Traditional Orthodox Christianity, which was established in the United States but has its roots in Greece, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Sisters’ Christmas tradition includes building a Nativity Cave, but this is the first time it has been shown in the shop where visitors can view it.

Mother Thecla explained that the cave motif is considered a more accurate representation of Christ’s birthplace in the ancient Holy Land.

“Early Christian tradition describes Christ’s birth as taking place in a cave,” Mother Thecla explained. “That’s where they kept the animals.”

The candle shop is a balancing act for the convent. On the one hand, the shop is the principal source of financial support for the convent, which is a non-profit organization. But Mother Thecla and the Sisters work hard to keep the shop in line with their faith.

“We don’t just pull out Christmas this time of year for retail purposes. Our lives are centered on the birth of Christ,” she said.

Visitors to the shop agree. Many come back year after year and greet the Sisters as friends. One visitor surreptitiously handed Mother Thecla a small gift item to set aside; he would come back and pick it up later when his wife wasn’t with him.

Debbie Hehn, one repeat visitor, came into the shop to buy local and handmade presents for her employers at Cascade Lumber. She comes to the shop not just for the gift ideas but out of a shared set of values, she said.

“The Lord brought us together for a reason,” Hehn said.

Other customers are there also for the assortment of gift items. Harvey and Lynette Stackhouse of Stanwood describe their beliefs as simply Christian (Lynette grew up Mormon, Harvey as a Baptist) and are fans of the beeswax candles for their health effects, since the candles act as natural air purifiers and can help relieve allergies.

“Our grandkids already bought all their Christmas gifts here. Everything you see in here is unique,” Harvey Stackhouse said.

The merchandise includes votive and tealight candles, which are poured on-site by the Sisters and volunteers. Tapered and larger candles are made by the sister convent in Boston. The convent also keeps bees on the grounds, and the festival includes tasting of both their own wildflower honey and select artisan-made varieties from California.

Other items for sale include candle holders and luminaries, prints of inspirational quotes and prayers, handmade glassware and a few natural health-related books and products. Kids love the polished geodes and stones, as well as the hands-on candle-pouring demonstrations, Mother Thecla said.

Both spiritual and physical well-being guides the Sisters’ choice in what to sell in the shop, hence the 100 percent pure beeswax candles and other items. Everything is intended to foster both physical and spiritual joy and peace, especially during the Christmas season.

“It’s a unique shop the whole family can enjoy,” she said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com.

If you go

The Quiet Light Christmas Festival takes place at the Convent of the Meeting of the Lord, located at 29206 64th Ave. NW in Stanwood through Dec. 21. Shop hours are noon-7 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays. More information is available by calling 360-629-0285 or online at quietlightcandles.com. Outside the holiday season, the shop is open Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m., but is closed during March and April in observance of Great Lent and Pascha (Orthodox Easter).

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