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Lighting A Candle: History And Rituals

Very few household items serve as many different purposes as candles. While a candle is an everyday commodity used for practical reasons, it is also an artful home décor accessory as well as an essential component in life’s celebrations and ceremonies from baptisms and birthdays to funerals.  How did this seemingly simple object end up playing such an important role in our lives?  




 

HISTORY

Fire has always been a key element for human survival, and it makes sense that it has both practical and symbolic significance to us. We revere fire as it also has the power to destroy us. The earliest known evidence of controlled fire dates back to Israel almost 800,000 years ago. The first forms of movable fire were used by Ancient Egyptians, who made rush lights and torches by soaking the pithy core of reeds in melted animal fat. The first true wicked candles weren’t developed until around 3,000 BC by Ancient Romans by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. Other civilizations created their own candles from available materials such as insect wax in China and cinnamon tree in Japan.

Throughout history, humans have experimented with different sources of wax for candles: tallow wax from leftover kitchen fats, beeswax, bayberry wax, spermaceti (from sperm whale oil), and later, stearin, paraffin and soybean wax. A candle-molding machine invented in the 19th century enabled mass production of candles. However, with the introduction of the light bulb in 1879, candle making began to decline.

The popularity of candles saw a rise in the 1980’s when people became interested in them as decorative objects, gifts, and ways to set an atmosphere.

RITUALS

With its roots in the element of fire, known for its power to both create and destroy, a candle symbolizes love and hope, light and warmth, celebration and commemoration. Though we no longer need candles to illuminate our surroundings, we hold on to their meaning as an expression of joy, reverence and reflection. Rituals abound to this day. In Christianity, a lit candle represents the divine light of God. In a marriage ceremony, two taper candles represent the two individuals, and a solid pillar their coming together in a union. Lighting a candle for the deceased signifies that their memory lives on and burns bright. Blowing out candles on a birthday cake goes back to an old belief that smoke will carry our wishes and prayers to the heavens. Each culture has their own spin on the traditions – it’s the ritual of lighting a candle itself that matters.

More and more, candles have also evolved into a sensual experience, a way to soothe our senses, spark romance, reconnect with our roots and signify a desire for a quieter and more meaningful way of life. What do you value in your life? Light a candle today to celebrate a moment that matters, a connection you treasure, or a person you love.

PHOTOS: C.HARDER FOR AND NORTH

 

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The Candlelit Family Meal

Our lives today are busier and more distracted than ever. Let’s admit it: too often we find ourselves taking a phone call or checking our Instagram account while we’re supposed to be enjoying quality time with our loved ones. How many family meals regularly get interrupted by our phones buzzing and someone staring at their little screen? Be honest.

We’ve decided to make a concerted effort to put all the distractions away and dedicate dinner time to nothing but family. Nothing brings a family closer more than sharing a meal together.

To make these moments even more special, we think it’s a great idea to take some time to set the table beautifully. A warm, glowing candle at the center of it all evokes the perfect atmosphere for a loving homemade meal. It’s easy, it’s simple, and it makes such a difference. It lets everyone know that dinner time is important, family is worth celebrating, and those gathered around the table are special to you.

12 inch Twigs Tapers by Greentree Home Candle

Placing one or two small candles on stands at the table is a nice way to achieve a homey everyday family meal atmosphere (try our graceful cats or sweet owls). A single column candle in a sturdy candle holder will do the same. You will be surprised to see the effect just lighting a candle will have on making an ordinary meal feel more intimate and meaningful.

For more festive occasions, go bigger: pillar candles of varying heights and sizes on a metal or mirror tray, a grouping of elegant tapers in different textures in tall candle holders, or candles sculpted into special shapes to celebrate an event or gathering. Different colors have their own significance: darker, dramatic colors are usually considered festive and romantic, while lighter, more subtle hues bring forth feelings of joy.

We strongly feel that 100% pure beeswax candles are the best choice to burn around mealtime. With no added scent, they are ideal for the dinner table when you don’t want fragrance to interfere with the aroma of the food. Another important point too often ignored: typical paraffin-based candles contain carcinogenic chemicals. Beeswax is non-toxic, non-allergenic, and purifies the air. Not only should mealtime nourish you and connect you to your loved ones, it should take place in a clean, healthy environment.

You’ll find an abundance of inspiration for your dinner table in our collection of contemporary 100% pure beeswax candles. As you plan the next meal, whether for your family or for a big celebration such as Passover or Easter, make sure to include candles as a functional centerpiece to invoke the right atmosphere. It lets everyone know it’s time to let go of distractions and sit down to savor the moment.

 

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Harvested By Hand

Set in the western foothills of the Catskill Mountains, Jenifer Green’s studio is a place of industrious attitudes. Spools of wicks hang on pipes and are feed through scores of pale purple molds that are lined up and ready to receive liquid beeswax to form her company's many sculptural renderings. Just outside the studio, the air is teaming with the sweet and damp scent of spring. Green reflects “ We love to open the front doors in the warm weather, but soon become invaded by honey bees and birds. They are drawn by the sweet aroma of the beeswax”.

 

Treadwell is a quiet hamlet located just 14 miles from Delhi, NY and provides the perfect setting for productive work.  For Green and her team of makers, the rolling landscape, the vast swipe of liquid blue sky and the occasional cry of a nearby cow or goat all provide an inspiring work environment. Each morning the tight knit crew constructs a production plan based on colors, styles and quantities. The Greentree Home collection of hand poured pure beeswax candles is offered at high-end retailers throughout the USA and Canada as well as the company’s web site.  

 

 

“My work is all about form and function.  Both are so important to me.  A candle is a sensory object.”  Green strives to balance the virtues of the burning experience with the use of a pure material in all of her designs. She adds, "The hand made process is essential and allows for total control of the quality.” Green credits her success to a keen focus on her vision for the company."I feel that creativity is the lifeblood that makes our everyday lives spectacular. The objects and candles we produce in our studio are expressions of who we are and define our creativity and imagination."

 

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