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2.11. Candles

Candles

 

Introduction 

 

Let’s start by putting candles in the context of the history of lighting.

The history of lighting begins in Greek mythology with Prometheus, Zeus,…  I will spare you this history, but if you wish you can find it in “Petite histoire de l’éclairage, de la bougie aux LED” whose link is included in our bibliography.  

A candle purchased on Gifts-custopolis.com is the ideal original gift, the candle gift idea to offer for important events in the current year, whether for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day or any other essential holiday in the social life of everyone, home gift idea that will warm the hearts and family atmosphere.

Let there be light: 

The use of fire

The oil lamp

The oil lamp was invented very early, but it required constant supervision as the grease should not spill out of the wick, and the lamp should be refilled with oil after 60 minutes of use.

This system was used until the Middle Ages, but the oil lamp evolved to have less flickering, better ventilation and longer life.

 

The tallow candle

 

This is the technique that competed with the oil lamp in the Middle Ages. For centuries, rushes were used to make candles. To make a tallow candle, liquid tallow is poured over a tightly stretched wick, after which the wick is dipped into a vat of liquid tallow or poured into a mould. It differs from candles in the composition and nobleness of the material and in its burning time. 

Although cheap, it is a material that has its drawbacks: tallow candles burn with black smoke and a very strong smell, which is not advisable nowadays.

 

History of the candle

 

The candle is an object mainly used for lighting, consisting of a fatty substance and a burning wick. It was invented in the middle of the Middle Ages. As mentioned, its “ancestor” is the tallow candle, which dates back to at least the beginning of the third millennium BC.

The disadvantage of the tallow candle is that it requires constant attention: it must be refilled regularly, the smouldering wick must be cut and reassembled, and the dripping oil must be cleaned. The tallow candle, which consists only of a wick surrounded by beef or sheep fat, is more practical without being excessively expensive (but it is taxed and the oil is cheaper). Less liquid spills out, the flame needs less adjustment and the tank needs less filling. But the tallow drips and greases the fingers, the flame remains yellow and smoky, and the wick always has to be maintained and charred.

The nobility and clergy lit themselves with beeswax candles, while the people lit themselves with tallow. The wax candle retains its advantages and eliminates its defects.  But the price limits its spread to the upper echelons of society.

 

 

The word “candle” appeared in the French language only in the 14th century, derived from Bugaya, an Arabic transcription of the Kabyle word Bgayet, the name of a maritime town in Algeria in Kabylia (present-day Béjaïa) that supplied a large amount of wax for candle production. The candle itself was developed in the mid-19th century and differs from the tallow candle in the raw material and the use of braided cotton wicks. The braid allows the wick to bend and burn: blowing out is not necessary. The wretched tallow candle then began to disappear.

 

As early as the 14th century, a corporation of candle, wick and oil makers existed in France under the banner of Saint-Nicolas. The main operations of the trade consisted of clearing tallow and wax, cutting and adjusting wicks from two cotton threads and a hemp thread, securing them in rows on a rod, dipping them several times in the vase with the melted tallow or wax until they were the right size and weight. This guild was strictly regulated to prevent any adulteration: it was forbidden to mix old wax with new, sheep and cow fat, and to put more oak than cotton in the wicks.

 

In 1783, the Swedish chemist Carl Scheele (1742-1786) boiled olive oil with lead oxide as part of his research into soap and obtained a sweet-tasting substance that he called Ölsüss, now known as glycerine. In 1823, the French chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul (1786-1889), stimulated by this discovery, discovered that it was not the fats that combined with the alkali to form soap, but that they were first broken down into fatty acids and glycerine (or glycerol). Chevreul is thus at the origin of the theory of saponification. His chemical studies led to the invention of the stearin candle (based on a particular fatty acid: stearic acid) – our current candle – which definitively replaced the tallow candle in 1825.

 

These two elements were the basis for the massive industrialisation of candles and soap. From then on, soap makers and candle makers belonged to the same corporation, of which Nantes became the capital. Even today, 80% of French candle production comes from the Nantes region. The advent of solid paraffin (petroleum distillate) and stearin (animal and vegetable fat extracts) made it possible to produce better quality candles. Of course, it should also be noted that people have always been attracted to candles. This attraction has been reflected in the representation of various chandeliers and electrically operated lights in the form of candles.

 

Why blow out candles on a birthday?

 

The tradition of blowing out birthday candles dates back to ancient Greece. At that time, it was customary to honour Artemis on her birthday. In Greek mythology, Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and one of the goddesses associated with the moon. To honour her, the Greeks made a round honey cake that resembled the moon. And to imitate the glow of the moon, they placed candles around the cake.

After kneeling before the cake and candles, the Greeks used to say a prayer to the moon and then blow out the candles.

The tradition of blowing out birthday candles therefore has pagan origins.

This explains why this tradition was rejected by the first Christians as early as the 4th century and then became rarefied in the Middle Ages. The Catholic Church is hostile to it because the birth reminds one of original sin. It prefers the celebration of the “patron saint” corresponding to his or her baptismal name.

The ritual of the birthday cake with candles returned to Germany in the 13th century, for the “Kinderfeste”, considered to be the first birthday party.

In France, it was not until the 18th century. According to the historian Montandon, this celebration marks “the recognition of the self and the valorisation of individuality”. From then on, a distinction had to be made between the celebration of the birthday and that of the saint.

It was not until the 19th century that the celebration of the day of birth became widespread in the West.

 

Our team has put together a special ” Candle ” section with some animated testimonials, which you can watch on your smartphone on the Flipboard app: topics: #candles

A candle purchased on Gifts-custopolis.com is the ideal original gift, the candle gift idea to offer for important events in the current year, whether for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day or any other essential holiday in the social life of everyone, home gift idea that will warm the hearts and family atmosphere.

 

Our team has put together a special ” Candle ” section ( in French) with some animated testimonials, which you can watch on your smartphone on the Flipboard app: topics: #candles

 

Bibliographie

 

Techno-sciences: bougie

https://www.techno-science.net/glossaire-definition/Bougie.html

 

Chose  à savoir: pourquoi souffle-t-on des bougies lors d’un anniversaire

https://www.chosesasavoir.com/pourquoi-souffle-t-on-des-bougies-lors-dun-anniversaire/

 

Petite histoire de l’éclairage, de la bougie aux LED.

https://www.antikeo.com/magazine/petite-histoire-de-l-eclairage-de-la-bougie-aux-led/

 

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