10 Amazing Facts about Candles
Everything is amazing. Even the the most mundane item in your house has a vast and storied history behind it. From the imagination that brought the idea to life, the iterations that improved upon it, and all the people that contributed over the years - everything has a story.
Candles are no different. After all, we’ve been burning them for the last 2500 years at our best estimate, so it’s no wonder that a fair few incredible candle facts have appeared in that time. In this article, we’re going to take a look at 10 of the most interesting facts about candles throughout history, and how they’ve shaped the products we know and love today.
1. What are the origins of candles?
It is very strongly suspected that the Ancient Greeks used to make candles, however, no conclusive evidence has been yet been found to confirm this. What is absolutely certain, is that the Romans used to make candles from tallow. The really interesting thing is that Romans actually used oil lamps as their main source of light, and so would instead give handmade candles as gifts during their Saturnalia festivities. It seems that everything comes full circle - during the 1800s, candles were a primary light source, but now we have the modern convenience of electric lighting, we once more treat homemade candles as a gift in a similar way to our Roman ancestors.
2. How hot is a candle flame? (Spoiler: very)
A candle flame burns at an average of 1000°C, but can reach 1400°C at the hottest part. To put this in context, the surface temperature of Venus is around 464°C, and lava burns at 1027°C - positively glacial compared to our humble candle flame. I can never repeat this enough - keep your fingers well away from a lit candle and always burn it on a fireproof surface. You’re less likely to get seriously burned doing a handstand on Venus :).
3. How are candles used in worship?
Candles have a long history of significance in many faiths. Many Christian denominations burn a candle during Easter to celebrate the risen Christ. Additionally, candles are commonly presented at baptism. In Hinduism, candles are lit before an altar at dawn. Buddhists will place a candle at a shrine of the Buddha to show respect. Judaism uses candles in many ceremonies, including the Hanukkah Menorah.
4. How many candles are sold per year?
The answer is - a lot. Oh my, it’s a lot. The U.K candle industry is estimated to be worth £1.9 billion per year. In the U.S, it’s around $3.14 billion. And that’s just those two countries. Safe to say, there are a lot of candles being made, sold and enjoyed.
5. What are some unusual candle waxes?
Historically, whale fat was used for candles but it’s extremely unusual now. Insects and cow tallow have also been used in the past. However, the winner of this competition has to be this fish. Basically, it would be burnt as a full candle. No manufacturing - just grab the fish and burn. Here at Made with Mia HQ, we are sharing a collective shudder on the discovery of this fact. - we’ll just stick with soy wax, thanks.
6. What is a candlemaker called?
A candlemaker’s formal name is in fact a ‘Chandler’. Now, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that your friendly author is called Matthew Perry. For fans of ‘Friends’, this bizarre coincidence is no doubt of massive hilarity.
7. What is the world’s biggest candle?
According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the biggest candle in the world was Liljetolmen’s Candle, displayed at the 1897 Stockholm Exhibition. Including the brick base, it stood at a whopping 38.7m tall. No records survive on the expected burning time, or the fragrances used.
8. How were candles used as clocks?
Before clockwork, digital clocks, or the snooze button (humanity’s greatest invention), there were candle clocks. The history of these is a little hard to determine - the earliest written reference to them is in a poem by You Jiangu in 520AD. The rough idea behind this device is there would be 6 candles, each twelve inches long. An individual candle would take four hours to burn, so the full set of six would be gone in exactly 24 hours. Additionally, each candle would be marked at one-inch intervals, so every time the candle burnt down to a mark, twenty minutes would have passed. Amazing stuff.
9. When was the first candle-making machine built?
The first candle making machine was built in 1834. The patent was filed by one Joseph Morgan, and being operated by “three men and five boys”, would allow for the production of 1500 candles per hour. This was at a time when UK society was dependent on mass candle manufacturing to provide basic lighting. Nowadays, we thankfully have the luxury of making handcrafted scented soy candles once more. There’s no need for a big machine and a team of “three men and five boys” - just two people and a cat who occasionally miaows at us to work harder.
10. What is the symbolism of a candle?
Candles typically symbolise the human connection to the divine. This has its origins in the myth of Prometheus, when the legendary titan stole fire from the gods to gift them to his beloved humans. His theft did not go well for him - Zeus being famously unamused by such things - but this one act set forth a chain of events across history that ended up with our Coral Candle Collection now being available to order online, so we are forever grateful.
That’s the end of our ten amazing facts about candles. The next time someone comments on how nice the homemade scented candle on your mantlepiece is, you are now in a position to excitedly regale them with stories about how people used to burn full fish. Until next time, have a bright and wonderful week, and keep the candles burning (but safely, on a fireproof surface). If you have any other interesting facts about candles you’d like to share, reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to hear from you.