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All About Candles
People are decorating with candles of all shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances. They create a warm, inviting feeling and make a room feel cozy. Many people feel that candles put them in a good mood. Unlike anything else, candles convey messages of romance, warmth, spirituality, secret wishes and brightness, all with the simple components of wax and a wick.
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“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
Embraced by almost every faith, creed and nationality, there is something special about a solitary flame and the energy exchange that it puts forth. It touches our souls. Who among us has not been be touched by the commonality of candles in our religions? People of all faiths and walks of life, and many different creeds, can join together in a candlelight vigil to grieve, or come together in prayer.
Candles have a unique place in our society today, and are also a link with our past.
CANDLES HAVE AN INTERESTING HISTORY
There is no recorded history of candle making. However, references to lighting candles date back to ancient times as early as 3000 BC in Crete and Egypt. Candles are mentioned in Biblical writings as early as the tenth century BC. A fragment of a candle from the first century AD has been found in Avignon, France.
In the fourth century B.C., candles were developed by the Ancient Egyptians by soaking the pithy core of reeds in molten tallow (animal fat). Called rush lights, they had no wick like a candle.
The early Romans are credited with developing the candle with a wick which was made from papyrus (a tall, aquatic, Mediterranean grass like plant) .
In the Middle Ages, beeswax, a substance secreted by honey bees to make their honeycombs, was introduced. Beeswax candles were a marked improvement over those made with tallow since they did not produce a smoky flame or emit an unpleasant odor when burned. Instead, beeswax candles burned pure and clean. However, they were expensive and, therefore, only the wealthy and the church had them.
In fourteenth century England, servants of the Royal household were paid partly in beeswax candles. Through to the reign of George III, the ends of used beeswax candles from the royal palaces were given to the Lord Chancellor as a valuable benefit of his position.
From the sixteenth century onwards, living standards improved as evidenced by the increasing availability of candlesticks and candleholders and their appearance in households. At this time, candles were usually sold by the pound and sold in bundles of eight, ten, or twelve candles. Everyday candles were made of animal fat (tallow), usually from sheep (mutton) or cows. These candles were usually a dark, yellowish color and probably gave off a nasty smell.
Early Chinese and Japanese candles were molded in paper tubes. They were made out of a wax made from an insect known as a “Cocus” and were mixed with seeds from various trees. The wicks were made of rolled-up rice paper.
In India, the use of animal fat in candles was prohibited by religious decree so candles were made from wax skimmed while boiling cinnamon.
Along the Northwest coast of North America the Indians produced light by inserting oily dried smelt into a slit at the end of a stick and lighting it.
In the Shetland Islands ( Scotland) the Stormy Petrel as well as other birds known to have a high content of fat in their bodies were hunted, killed and dried. They then had wicks put down their throats which were lit to produce light.
America ’s Colonial women discovered that boiling the grayish green berries of bayberry bushes produced a sweet-smelling wax that burned clean. However, extracting the wax from the bayberries was extremely tedious.
In 18th century England, candles were taxed and common people were forbidden to make their own. There were two guilds of chandlers, one for tallow chandlers and one for wax chandlers. They were the only ones licensed to produce candles until 1831. At that time the law was repealed.
Also in the 18th century the growth of the whaling industry brought the first major change in candlemaking since the Middle Ages. It was then that spermaceti, a wax obtained by crystallizing sperm whale oil, became available in quantity. Like beeswax, the spermaceti wax did not elicit a repugnant odor when burned. It was also harder than both tallow and beeswax which meant it did not soften or bend in the summer heat.
It was during the 19th century when most major developments affecting contemporary candle making occurred. In 1834, inventor Joseph Morgan introduced a machine which allowed continuous production of molded candles. A cylinder which featured a movable piston ejected candles as they solidified.
In 1850 the production of the first paraffin wax made from oil and coal shale began. It was made by distilling the residues left after crude petroleum was refined. The resultant bluish-white wax was found to burn cleanly and with no unpleasant odor.
The term candlepower is based on a measurement of the light produced by a pure spermaceti candle weighing one sixth of a pound, burning at a rate of 120 grams per hour. (Spermaceti is a white, waxy substance consisting of various esters of fatty acids, obtained from the head of the sperm whale or another cetacean and used for making candles, ointments, and cosmetics.)
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