The need for light and something else
Candles are as old as the very early stages of human civilization. The need for preserving the light of the fire made our very distant ancestors demonstrate creativeness and invent an object that can emit light for a long period of time. First oil lamps were designed for illumination and then the candles appeared. Obviously candles (or tapers as they are called sometimes) were and still are appreciated (along with candleholders) for their light and not as a source of warmth.
Quite naturally I suppose that tapers became in some cultures magical objects as well. Thus they were no longer a simple molded piece of wax with a wick in the center. For that reason a lot of religions and cults still use tapers in their ceremonies. Even today candles are used as paraphernalia for magic rituals performed in a home setting. I was surprised to find out very recently that there is an extensive literature on the subject of candle magic (or magick). Of course, this is an exceedingly intriguing topic but it is beyond the ambit of this blog post of mine.
The chemistry of candles
I will not expatiate on the chemical processes related to the candle-light. Yet, I would like just to mention the impressive work on candles of the brilliant English scientist Michael Faraday who dedicated 6 lectures on the ‘Chemical History of a Candle’. Those lectures were delivered in 1861 at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. I was thrilled to find out from Faraday’s lectures that one of the products of the candle burning is water. The water is in vaporous condition, of course. But more importantly it is the reason why a dimness around the wax light is being formed.
Michael Faraday’s lectures reminded me of the fresh air that the taper needs for its burning. That fact has some important implications. One has to open on a regular basis the windows in the room where the wax light has burnt. Thus the room can have again some fresh air since it has been already depleted of its previous fresh air due to the chemical processes occurring during the burning of the candle.
Can we live without them?
We are so much in the habit of enjoying the benefits of modern technology (and more specifically to electricity) that we can hardly realize that until the 20th century candles were the exclusive source of light for all people. The miners all over the world used candles in the coal mines. And they were risking their lives at any time because the miners themselves could easily and inadvertently set the coal mines on fire by using candles. The candles in everyone’s home were indicative of the social status of the respective person.
Poor people were using wax lights of low quality and more importantly the whole households would gather in one room so that all of them can take advantage of a single candle. Rich people, accordingly, were basking in the light of numerous high-quality candles. The wealthy would put very often their sumptuous tapers in beautifully crafted candleholders. During the Middle Ages the wealthy families had a servant who was responsible for making tapers and his position was known as a ‘chandler’. The chandler was working in a ‘chandlery’ and this was also the place in which the tapers were stored.
My personal affection for candles
I have always been very passionate about candles. Candles can create a romantic atmosphere and they easily can make you feel very special when you light them up. I have a tendency to fix my gaze on the taper’s flame and start dreaming. The scent of the candle is also very important to me as it further enhances my pleasure and relaxation. However, I should admit that the fall and winter (and especially the period around Christmas) are the seasons when I cherish the benefits of candles to the fullest possible extent.
I love candleholders too
The candles are worthy of admiration but the candleholders in which we can put them are equally exciting. There are a lot of types of candleholders: candlesticks, girandoles, candelabra, prickets.
Besides, it is worth mentioning that there are certain devices that can facilitate us in dealing with the candles such as candle snuffers and wick trimmers.
The beauty of the candles is in their ephemeral nature (just like flowers). They disappear after they burn out. However, the candlesticks remain forever and they can become an elegant decoration in your home. Moreover, as you can see from the images of the candleholders, some of them are true objets d’art.
Warnings about the dangers associated with candles
The candles are one of the greatest inventions in the world and they should bring comfort, relaxation, and joy in your home. However, please note that tapers can be extremely dangerous and even lethal if you forget about them because they can ignite any object that is close to them. So, please watch out when and after you light a candle up.
Besides, I would like to remind you that you should regularly air the room where a wax light has been lit up. It is reasonable to extinguish a taper after burning it for a couple of hours. This way you can air the room and let some fresh air in. Last but not least, if you have children and/or pets at your home, please make sure that you are at all times in the room where a candle has been lit.
2020 has brought us a lot of tragic events and discomfort but the candles are the perfect tool for cheering you up.
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