Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hands have renewed purpose in 'hand-lit' craze

I heard an advertisement for Brookgreen Gardens’ Nights of a Thousand Candles.

The ad enticed me with its promise of “hand-lit candles.” I found this reassuring. I certainly think the ambiance is best when the candles are lit by hands. Candles lit by Bacardi 151 can sure trash a living room.

If Brookgreen is advertising them, hand-lit flames now have high-end market value. Soon, everyone will try to make a buck on the hand-lighting craze.

Light the Advent wreath, the menorah, or the Christmas tree with your own hand, and you’ve got something special there. Show it off and charge admission. Add a surcharge if you use short matchsticks.

Local hotels will boast about buffets featuring hand-lit Sterno cans.

Now that hand-lighting has become a commodity, hands are riding a new wave of popularity. We’d almost grown tired of hearing “hand-crafted” in Samuel Adams Boston Lager ads and campaigns for other brews. These ads usually involved extra syllables – “ha-a-a-a-nd crafted,” calling to mind Goat Boy from older Saturday Night Live episodes. Just when hand-crafted was on its way out, hand-lit saves the day.

Hand-lit candles and hand-crafted beers aren’t the only new contributions of the five-finger gang. Hands have found new ways to promote actors and recording artists. Recently, for educational purposes, I was researching “famous pictures of all-natural tweeting birds” on the Internet. Search result? Top nude celebrity photos that have appeared on Twitter in 2011. This had nothing to do with tweeting birds, but I believe in learning from mistaken Internet searches. I learned hands have delicate and complex abilities to display both male and female parts of celebrity exhibitionists.

Hands have also become associated with South Carolinian activities, and I don’t mean pulling triggers. I mean a special image on a U.S. 501 billboard from Smoke Free Horry, our local self-appointed health nannies. In the image, a woman – presumably a South Carolinian – is displaying her very pregnant belly with one hand while holding a cigarette in the other. Surely the presence of pregnant smoking women is one of our state’s most endearing qualities – how else could other states look down on us?

But as the South enters the 19th century, we insist our women are no longer barefoot and pregnant. They’re smoking and pregnant. And our hand-lit cigarettes are neither light nor low on tar. If we’re going to hand-light something these days, it’s going to be something worthwhile, like a Marlboro Red, a beachwear store with good insurance, or a bottle rocket aimed into the wind.

Our hand-lighting is now reserved for special occasions, like frying a turkey for the holidays, or inviting our friends and neighbors to special events. So even in an age of lighters and electric grills, I believe the match, like the dead-wood book and the LP vinyl record, will always be with us, even if it becomes a little more upscale.

-Colin Foote Burch
(This column originally appeared on and was re-posted here in July 2014.)

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