“Candles have come a long way since their initial use. Although no longer man’s (sic) major source of light, they continue to grow in popularity and use. Today, candles symbolize celebration, mark romance, soothe the senses, define ceremony, and accent home decors — casting a warm and lovely glow for all to enjoy.” — American Candle Society
For five thousand years, according to the candle society, candle have been in use. While wicked candles were developed in ancient Roman times using tallow and papyrus, Egyptians and Chinese had forms of candles too, though without wicks. For a time in Europe beeswax candles, which didn’t smoke like those of tallow, were used by the rich only.
Since the electric light bulb, countries and areas with electricity means candles are no longer essential. Yet on a walk through most department stores in America a person will find an array of candles in a variety of colors and scents. In restaurants, tables are often adorned with candles. While there are dripless candles today, there are also those that drip quite a bit. These are popular in Italian-food restaurant stuck into empty chianti bottles, which then become covered with wax drippings.
Thinking back on my childhood, I don’t recall candles in our home except on special occasions, and then only on the dinner table. But I’ve had friends who’ve had, and used, candles as part of their daily home life. And not just at the dinner table, but in candle holders in different parts of the house. Some years ago my wife picked up a few candles, put them on the mantel above the fireplace, and liked them so much, she shopped around for a lot more. In the family room at night, with only candles lite, it’s possible to read, there are so many.
Symbols. Candles are symbolic. One possible way is that they “are visible reminders of our possible triumph over darkness.” — Marriage.com. Seems logical enough. Candles harness fire. Fire made possible migration out of the equatorial lands and into the colder regions to the north and south. I recall a part in some movie in which cavemen took a burning branch from a lightning struck tree. They carried the branch, protecting it from wind, adding to it, and caring for it. They were then able to move from northward. Fire. Light. Life.
Nostalgia. Perhaps, too, we like candles because they’re reminders of simpler times. Some years ago I found an imitation gas light lightbulb. The globe was rust brown. It glowed yellowish, and flickered, too. It was definitely a throwback to the days of gas-fired lamps.
Remembrance. Candles are used to remember people, too, especially those that have died. “The pagan custom of burying lamps with the dead was to provide the dead with the means of obtaining light in the next world; the lamps were for the most part unlighted. It was of Asiatic origin, traces of it having been observed in Phoenicia and in the Punic colonies, but not in Egypt or Greece. In Europe it was confined to the countries under the domination of Rome.” — Wikipedia. The modern expression of this is our candlelight vigils, often taking place in the same location as a person dies.
Then there’s candles in sacred ceremony. Use of candles can be seen in the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, which was declared an official festival in 138 BC. “Emperor Constantine is reported to have called for the use of candles during an Easter service in the 4th century.” the candle society reports. In the Episcopalian/Anglican services, as in both Roman and Orthodox Catholic services, candles are used extensively.
In the Bible, depending on the translation/version, the word candle appears as lamp or light. For instance, Y’shuaJesus told his followers “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) It could also be thought of as flame. The Lord tells his followers they are the flame of the world. They will set a spiritual fire. And indeed they did. For they set a blaze that burns today, despite the number of people who’d quench the fire if they could.
In other parts of the Bible, lamp or light or candle refers to the spirit within humans. This is another reference to light as life. If a person’s light goes out, it means they are dead. The Book of Proverbs illustrates it with a warning to Jews and Christians.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future;
the candle of the wicked will be put out. — Proverbs 24:19,20
Romance. I’ll let you, dear readers, fill in thoughts about candle light dinners on patios or beaches. Stars overhead. Soothing breeze on a warm night.
Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .