Candles have been in existence for thousands of years. They were first made millennia ago by inventors, whose names history no longer recalls, because this was during the prehistoric era. Considering this, it is rather fascinating to note that candles have been able to persist to this period in time and that their usage shows no sign of waning in the future.
This may be because of the various roles that candles have evolved into fulfilling, over the course of time. One of the most popular of these roles involves the act of putting candles on cakes.
WHY ARE CANDLES SO POPULAR?
For the longest time, candles were one of the only sources of indoor illumination. The earliest candles to be recorded in history were made from boiled down tallow or fat obtained from the carcasses of slaughtered animals. Although, other materials were used in making candles in other parts of the world – and even in the west – tallow candles were still extremely popular in the western world. Candle makers or chandlers used to move from household to household and offer their candle-making services for a fee, using the left over tallow or animal fat kept in the kitchens for that particular purpose (i.e. the purpose of making candles). However, tallow candles were expensive and somewhat difficult to produce in high quality en masse; this is why the commercialization of candles made from paraffin wax was so very well received at the end of the 19th century.
Paraffin wax candles could easily replace tallow candles in the hands of the masses because they were much cheaper, and available in very large quantities; due to the fact that it was much easier for candle makers to manufacture these kinds of candles in very large quantities, using machines and molds in factories.
However, a huge blow came to the candle industry of that era when the electric light bulb was introduced and commercialized. This new invention affected the sales and availability of candles; particularly those made from tallow, because of the decrease in their demand in favor of electrical lighting. Over time, the needs and demands of people in respect to indoor illumination steadily overtook and exceeded the capabilities of what candles could provide.
Nevertheless, candles didn’t fade out of existence. Instead, they evolved and changed in terms of their roles, particularly in the face of the popularity of cake candles and scented candles.
THE EVOLUTION OF CANDLES IN THE FACE OF POPULAR MEDIA
Over time, the roles of candles have shifted ever so slightly from their original purpose of illumination. Nowadays candles are mainly for other purposes asides from illumination. They are used in aromatherapy for aiding stress relief and relaxation. The types of candles used for this purpose are scented candles, which contain perfumes and fragrances which are usually added during the candle-making process. The rising popularity of scented candles in recent years is one of the various ways in which candles have managed to remain very relevant despite the fact that they are no longer one of the main sources of indoor illumination in this modern world of electricity.
However, the influence of popular media cannot be ignored if we’re to fully discuss the rising popularity of candles. For a long time, the cinema and entertainment industry have made significant contributions towards the determination of trends. In this new era of social media and fast internet, people look up to celebrities and influencers and are always curious about virtually everything they use, eat, consume and smell. This is one of the reasons why some candle lovers show significant interest in what candles their favorite celebrities prefer.
Another way popular media has influenced the popularity of candles is the manner in which they portray them as symbols of romance. For hundreds – and perhaps, thousands – of years, candles have been used to create ambience and set the mood for romance and intimacy. However, when the movie industry really started to build on this, the culture of using candles to instill romance appeared to experience a significant and undeniable boom. More people instinctively began to associate the warm glow of candlelight with romance and candles began to feature greatly in marriage proposals. The tradition of putting candles on cakes is another example of this.
IS PUTTING CANDLES ON CAKES A TRADITION?
While the practice of putting candle on cakes is an actual tradition, it wasn’t quite so globally popular until popular media began to work its magic. This particular tradition has its roots in several countries in the western world. For instance, long ago in Germany, they began putting candles on cakes as a symbol of religious believes; where the candle supposedly signifies the light of life. However, this same tradition can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who believed in burning candles to honor their gods and goddesses.
Nowadays, the myths and legends surrounding this longstanding tradition (i.e. the tradition of putting candles on a cake), have evolved to feature the addition of new beliefs, that honestly aren’t that new (the most popular ones are at least several decades’ old). However, compared to the cultures and beliefs of the ancient Greeks, we suppose they are rather new.
One of such “new” additions is the general idea that if you make a silent wish before blowing out the candles on a cake, the wish will come true. While this assumption might find its roots in ancient Greek beliefs (remember, they used to light candles to honor their gods and goddesses), we can’t exactly deny that popular culture and media in recent times – we’re talking about the last several decades – have participated largely in the perpetuation of this belief. They do this by showing innocuous scenes of people partaking in this tradition and – due to the large scale exportation of media and entertainment – countries in other places all over the world (who do not really have any history of such tradition) have also begun to embrace the act of putting candles on cakes as part of the norm.
Again, this is the magic of popular media at work.