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The History of the Christmas Candle

History of the Christmas Candle

The lighting of candles during the holiday season is an intricate part of the celebration for many worldwide.  The flickering illumination of wax and wick bring back thoughts and feelings of Christmas long ago.  But have you ever wondered where the tradition of displaying this popular symbol of Christmas started?


It wasn't until the Middle Ages that beeswax replaced tallow.  It was a marked improvement since beeswax didn't produce a smoky flame or nasty odor when burned.  However, these pure and clean beeswax candles were very expensive and only affordable to the wealthy.


During the 19th century, most major improvements affecting today's candle making occurred.  Joseph Morgan introduced the first continuous-production machine for molded candles in 1834.  Paraffin wax made from oil and coal shales was developed in 1850.  Its lower cost was a great asset, but its low melting point was a threat to its popularity.  With the discovery of stearic acid, paraffin became hard and durable.  By the end of the century, most candles were being manufactured with paraffin and stearic acid.


But in 1879, the light bulb was invented.  Candles lost significant popularity until a resurgence of interest emerged with the turn of the century.  Even though candles are no longer our main source of light, their popularity and use continue to grow.  We display them to mark a celebration, create a romantic mood, emphasize an important ceremony, or to accent decor with a warm glow.


Christmas candles have always been central to lighting the Christmas season.  The tradition of placing Christmas candles in windows dates from the beginning of Christianity. A large candle was lit on Christmas Eve, symbolizing Christ, the light of the world. It burned throughout the night to mark the nativity--lighting the way for Mary and Joseph. This ancient custom continues today in European countries such as France, England, Ireland and Denmark.


The Legend of the Christmas Candle

Many years ago an old cobbler and his wife lived in a little village in Austria. Although very poor, whatever they owned they shared with others. Each night they placed a lighted candle in the window of their cottage as a sign of hospitality to any traveler needing shelter.


Through the years, war and famine plagued this little village. Yet, as though some mysterious charm guarded them, the cobbler and his wife suffered far less than their neighbors.


One evening, on the night before Christmas, the villagers gathered to discuss their plight. "There is something special about the cobbler and his wife," said one villager. "They are always spared our misfortunes. What do they do that we do not? Let us put a candle in our windows too. Perhaps that is the charm."


That night every home lit a Christmas candle in each window, and lo, before the sun rose, a messenger brought great news to the village. Peace had come! The villagers gave thanks to God for this blessing of Peace and vowed to always light candles on Christmas Eve.


This beautiful custom spread throughout the world, and each year millions of Christmas candles light up the world with a message of love and everlasting joy.


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