Egypt. Rome. China. Japan. India. Do you see something in common?
Today we’re exploring the thread from these ancient civilizations to one of the most prevalent seasonal decorations — candles.
Egypt and Rome began with tallow (animal fat) and flax, hemp or cotton fiber as a wick. China used wax from a local insect and seeds. Japanese extracted wax from tree nuts. In India they boiled the fruit of the cinnamon tree. These candles were smoky and unpleasantly scented by modern standards but they served a purpose in religious ceremonies and interior lighting.
Improvements have occurred since. In Europe during the Middle Ages the church and the rich began to use beeswax. And the women in Colonial American performed the tedious process of extracting wax from bayberry. The years of whaling introduced a new wax, able to hold shape during hot summers. Then in the 19th century a spurt in inventions made candles affordable to nearly all.
We don’t depend on candles for interior lighting these days. Yet they are often used to set the mood, celebrate birthdays, or mark portions of religious ceremonies. And when the electricity fails, a candle or two can enable evening reading. Modern candles are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Scented or unscented. In a jar or a slender taper in a holder.