This time of year, traditionally has us thinking about candles. Candles figure prominently in our lives, often at times of special celebration and of course, right now, both Hanukah and Christmas call to mind many beautiful displays of softly flickering lights. Whether those lights are of the peppermint-scented store-bought variety or the glory of those found on the Menorah, candles light our Churches, Synagogues and homes too. Perhaps you are from a German background (or many other European countries) and candles are placed on your Christmas tree creating a special glow. How about that other time when candles take “front and centre” in our celebrations? Birthdays. At Amintro, we celebrate those folks who have celebrated at least 50 birthdays. If that’s you – read on for more information about candles, how seniors meet seniors, the holidays and yes, birthdays too!
Where did candles come from and why do they play such a central role in our various celebrations? Evidence of candles made from whale fat date as far back as the Han dynasty in China, circa 200 BC. There is evidence the early Egyptians used a “candle” made of rushes dipped in animal fat while the ancient Romans appear to be the first to use tallow for candles. Beeswax was expensive throughout the middle-ages so tallow remained a common material. Candle making was considered a skilled craft. Toward the end of the 18th century, material taken from the sperm whale was used in mass-produced candles and by the 19th century, paraffin was common. Today – you can get a candle made from just about anything – even soy!
While candles originated as a source of light extending the workday, even in ancient times candles also represented an opportunity to gather in celebration, around a table, a religious festival, to honour loved ones or for when gathering with family and friends. Most historians accept that it was the Germans who began the tradition of candles on a birthday cake. Several theories attribute this tradition to a German Count from the 1740s. Others credit the tradition of Kinderfest, (also in Germany) a birthday celebration for children when a single candle was lit, symbolizing “the light of life.”
The Menorah represents the Jewish celebration of their victory over a tyrant king and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. As the story goes, a small amount of oil (meant only to last one night) was used to light the Temple’s menorah but instead, it miraculously lasted for eight days. The traditional lighting of the Menorah (one candle for each day of Hanukah) is a special time of year. As for Christmas trees, again it is the Germans who are largely credited with first putting candles on trees, around the 17th century.
For many, however, this time of year can be difficult. The thought of candles and celebrations has them feeling lonely instead of lovely. If that’s you – maybe it’s time to think about Amintro. When family is far away or your circle of friends is growing smaller not larger, Amintro offers an opportunity to meet new friends in a safe way. Become an “Amintronian” with just a few simple clicks on the computer. Find friends that share your old-fashioned values in a new and innovative way using Amintro. Join today. You won’t be lonely on the next holiday or birthday and might even be ready to light a few candles!
Amintro’s Top Five Tips on Candles and Candle Safety
1. If you have candles on your Christmas tree make sure they never stay lit for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Stay in the room at all times and ensure a bucket of sand and/or a fire extinguisher are within arms reach. Keep an eye on water levels with your tree – once your tree stops taking on water, those candles are even more of a fire hazard.
2. Many of the newer variety candles are “three-wick.” If you burn this variety at home be sure to keep all three wicks lit at the same time. Doing so will extend the life of your candle and help prevent uneven melting or one side of the glass holding your candle from becoming too hot and possibly shattering.
3. Keep track of the candles you’ve lit – particularly during a power outage. Counting candles will help ensure you blow out the same number you lit when the lights went out!
4. Be “scent-savvy.” These days many people have sensitivities to smell. If you’re lighting a plethora of pungent candles in honour of the season it could overwhelm some guests.
5. This last tip isn’t about candles necessarily – but instead, it’s a reflection on an old saying about “burning the candle at both ends.” Essentially, this means you are too busy. We all have a tendency during the holiday season to try and do a little bit of everything. Our advice – slow down, light a candle and take some time to simply relax.
Written by Sheralyn Roman