Christmas: the story of the candle
The most important things in brief
- Like every year, just before Christmas, many of us are still looking for nice gifts.
- Wouldn't some nice candles be a nice idea?
- Their history goes back much further than we can imagine, people used candles as early as 40 millennia ago.
- Candles as we know them today have been around since the Middle Ages. Its enlightening and spiritual importance remains great.
Anthropologists are quite certain: the Cro-Magnon people were already familiar with and used artificial light around 40,000 years ago. In stone bowls, wicks burned in presumably animal tallow, illuminating the darkness - if only for a few minutes. About 5,000 years ago, in the Copper Age, people invented candles that lasted a little longer.
Let there be light
In Advent and at Christmas, light plays a major role. We don't just decorate the Christmas tree, we make it nice and bright everywhere. The first candles are already burning on the Advent wreath, one month before Christmas Eve. And that's nice because it's quite simply the darkest time of the year out there.
Our ancestors must have thought something like that. To make matters worse, they had to seek shelter in dark caves to protect themselves from wild animals such as bears and saber-toothed tigers. Luckily, the creation of fire was probably invented 1.5 million years ago, and so the Cro-Magnon people only had to use the light for their purposes. On the one hand against the darkness. And on the other hand also as a weapon against the man-eating beasts of that time.
Further development in the Copper Age
About 5,000 years ago, mankind, probably in the Middle East, took a leap in the development of lighting. Now wicks were made of reeds, hemp, papyrus or straw and dipped in tallow, which extended the life of the candles - which in reality were more reminiscent of torches. In Japan, China and India, for example, people made wax from seeds, insects and nuts very early on.
In general, wax is the most important raw material of a candle together with the wick. A wick can be made of glass fibers or cotton. In the Middle Ages, Europeans discovered that beeswax burned far better than wax made from insects, seeds, and nuts. The latter caused a lot of soot and smoke and didn't smell particularly pleasant either.
Pricey but pleasant
Beeswax was much more pleasant, in all respects, it still smells rather sweet to this day (not only with scented candles). However, it was very expensive and therefore only reserved for the church and wealthy private individuals. Ordinary people continued to have to make do with tallow instead of wax. From the 17th century, candles were no longer just about brightness and a pleasant smell, but also about the look.
Because white was popular in church and at court, which is why the wax was often bleached with arsenic oxide. This is a potent poison and definitely carcinogenic, attacking people's health quite aggressively. Candles were ubiquitous in the 18th century - bad news for the sperm whale.
Whale Hunt for White Candles
Because humans discovered that spermaceti (found only in the heads of sperm whales) could also bleach candles. The hunt for sperm whales became even more profitable, which did not change until the middle of the 19th century. Then mankind came up with the idea of developing stearin from animal fat, which burned clean. Incidentally, stearin candles are en vogue today, as they are considered environmentally friendly.
Man finally discovered paraffin in 1850. This was cheap to produce and burned very evenly, and it hardly produced any smoke. Candle manufacturers went into mass production, and the illuminant was finally affordable for everyone. With the invention of the light bulb in 1879, the short boom was over, but it revived in the 20th century because stearin and paraffin were always used in meat processing and in the oil industry. To this day, these raw materials are the most used substances in the manufacture of candles.
If you are still looking for great gifts for the festival, candles are a good choice. At Kanela you will find a nice selection of all kinds of candles.
Price: 12.30 CHF
Price: 11.40 CHF
Price: 10.60 CHF
Price: 24.30 CHF
Price: 24.30 CHF
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