Introduction to Candles
From birthday cakes to formal dinners, candles hold an important place in the celebration of special occasions. An early traditional adornment to Christmas trees, even when they were the only practical means to get light, they were nevertheless viewed as stylish and elegant. Today, unlit candles also serve as decorations in their own right, and people even make their own. Here is some more information about the world of candles.
What Are Candles?
At the core of any candle is a wick dipped in wax. Setting fire to the wick allows the candle to slowly burn away, providing light. A candle can be much more than a simple light source. Added color and fragrance, the incorporation of other materials, such as rose petals and glass beads, and shaping mean that an endless array of beautiful candles are available. Candles may also be used in aromatherapy.
The wicks are usually cotton, but several types of wax are used. Most often found is paraffin, but vegetable-based and synthetic waxes, gels, and beeswax are also used, and may be blended. Beeswax is a traditional material, but is also popular for its scent. If you wish to avoid scent, because of allergies for example, soy candles may be a good choice.
Types of Candles
There are twelve basic types of candles used in and around homes by homeowners:
• Birthday candles — These are the short, slim candles placed on birthday cakes.
• Container candles — These candles, also called jar candles, come in a lidded container in a decorative shape. The container is often made of glass, ceramic, or metal.
• Floating candles — A candle designed to float on water, with a convex bottom for this purpose.
• Gel candle — There are two types of these translucent candles: a soft container candle and a hard, free-standing candle. Decorative items are often suspended within a gel candle.
• Insect repellent candles — Often containing citronella, these candles are burned outdoors in warm weather in the hopes of keeping insects away.
• Luminaria —Votive candles (see below), specially made for outdoor use, and placed in a sand-filled container, which is sometimes enclosed in a specially prepared bag.
• Novelty candles —Specialty candles such as those made to relight after blowing out, which are placed on birthday cakes to confuse the celebrant.
• Pillar candles — Free-standing candles with one or more wicks, depending on size and usually having a diameter of at least three inches. (7.6 cm). They are often round, but can be other shapes. Pillar candles are meant to be burned on a heat-proof surface, which may be a plate, a pedestal, or a special pillar holder.
• Taper candles — The slender candles, ranging in length from 6 to 18 inches (15—46 cm), are made to be held upright in a candle holder. Tapers may be placed in candlesticks, candelabras, or chambersticks, or enclosed in a hurricane glass.
• Tea candles — Also called tealights, these are small, thin, disc-like candles, meant to be placed in special tea light holders.
• Utility candles — Made for emergencies, but used like tapers as well, these are candles are generally white and plain and kept in case of a blackout.
• Votive candles —Categorized by their burn-time, for example 10-hour or 15-hour, these were originally prayer candles, although the same size and shape now comes in a variety of scents and are used to ornament a room. A wide variety of special votive holders are available for use with this type of candle.
Candles and Safety
Unlit candles are perfectly safe, but once lit, they may pose a fire hazard. To keep risk minimal, burning candles should be placed in or on a fireproof surface and never be left unattended. Candles should be placed where children and pets do not have access to them.
Written by Mary Elizabeth