Let the illumination commence this September as we celebrate World Candle Month. With the summer winding down and the cooler, darker, autumn taking over, September is the perfect time of year to celebrate the remarkable history and modern relevance of the humble (and not so humble) candle. Founded in 2013, World Candle Month unites candle aficionados around the globe in an effort to “slow down and appreciate the everyday moments of simple pleasures.”
Candles have an illustrious history (as we’ll get to in a moment) but they are currently as relevant as ever. World Candle Month highlights the many ways that candles, scented or otherwise, can be incorporated into our daily lives. Once used to bring light into dark places, candles are now a source of calm and relaxation with scents designed to freshen any space and improve any mood. Stick with us as we celebrate all the ways candles are integral to our past and can be a welcome addition to our future.
History of World Candle Month
As you might have already guessed candles have been around for a very long time. There’s evidence that the ancient Egyptians used a rudimentary form of a wicked candle as far back as 3000 BC and it is well-known that the ancient Romans had developed candles with wicks. Once made with animal fat called tallow, candle making evolved over the years and in different parts of the globe to include the use of wax from many different plants, insects, and even certain tree nuts.
Throughout the millennia progress was slow. In middle age Europe improvements came in the form of using the cleaner-burning and better-smelling beeswax rather than tallow. However, their cost made them prohibitive outside of church ceremonies and the homes of the very rich. In the late colonial-era, the growth of the whaling industry led to the use of crystalized sperm whale oil known as spermaceti.
However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that candles and the process we’re most familiar with today would take shape. The 1830s saw the mechanization of candle making (or chandling) making them significantly less expensive to produce and opening their use up to a larger population. In the 1850s the nascent petroleum industry developed a way to separate a waxy substance called paraffin from petroleum at scale. Paraffin would be the most common form of candle wax for more than a century.
It is around the turn of the 20th century that candle use changed from being a source of light to being a source of entertainment. The light bulb displaced the candle as the primary light bringer in the late 19th century and their numbers stayed steady until the 1980s when candles, now often scented, saw a resurgence as decoration, mood-setters, or even gifts. The candle industry continues to grow today as advances in wax, scent, and color technology offer consumers a panoply of options for their homes.