How to Look at a Candle

© Copyright 2020 Sydnie Walker, Ryerson University

A three wick candle that has been lit. Unknown. Pumkin-Scented 3-Wick Candle, October 10, 2009. Photograph, 800 x 536. Image © Unknown

When people see candles, they often overlook them.  This is due to the fact that people frequently do not know the history that comes with candles.  In modern times, a common association to candles are in people’s homes. They are viewed as a household item that helps to make a room smell better.  Candles can also be used during certain settings; they can symbolize a celebratory event or a ceremony of honour, and can be used to set the scene for romance.  Likewise, candles are used in religious ceremonies, such as Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights that revolves around lighting candles. Candles give off pleasant aromas that help to make a place more enjoyable.  As a result of this, candles can also be used to soothe the senses since scents can have different effects on people in regards to their moods, or how they are feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally.  

Throughout time, the various purposes for candles have changed.  In the beginning, candles had many uses to help with survival, such as heat and to tell time.  The Ancient Egyptians are the earliest known individuals that used candles. They referred to the candles as torches and made them by taking the pithy core of reeds and soaking them in animal fat, or better known at the time as tallow.  Eventually, the idea of wicked candles came to be. Today, candles can have from one-wick to three-wicks. Originally, there was only one. The ancient Romans are credited to be the first group to develop a wicked candle. They made them by taking rolled papyrus and dipping it multiple times into melted tallow or beeswax.  These candles lit their homes, helped to guide travellers at night, and were used during religious ceremonies. Different cultures around the same time have been known to make wicked candles themselves, however, they were made out of other materials, including plants, insects, and rice.  

Candles took an extensive amount of time to make.  Usually as the job of the youngest girl in the family, they would have to repeatedly dip the wick into the tallow until it took the shape of a candle.  During the 19th century, Joseph Morgan designed a machine that could make candles on a continuous production line. This allowed for candles to become easily affordable.  Candles were a popular commodity until 1879 when the invention of the lightbulb made the need for candle making to decline. Nonetheless, those with less money were more likely to continue to use candles unlike those that had money.

With the uses for candles constantly changing, people began to forget the reason they were originally invented.  Candles have a long history that is generally unknown to many. Throughout the years, candles have become an everyday commodity that people use for more decorative purposes, such as giving a room a nicer smell, being used in different types of ceremonies, allowing for a romantic setting, and helping to soothe the mind, body, and soul.


Works Cited

“History.” National Candle Association,

Unknown. Pumkin-Scented 3-Wick Candle, October 10, 2009. Photograph, 800 x 536. Image © Unknown.