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CANDLEMAS—CANDLESTICK

The wick is a most important part of a candle, and unless it is of proper size and texture either too much or too little fuel will be supplied to the flame, and the candle will gutter or be otherwise unsatisfactory. The material generally employed is cotton yarn, plaited or “braided” by machinery, and treated or “pickled” with a solution of boracic acid, ammonium or potassium nitrate, or other salt. The tightness of the plaiting varies with the material used for the candle, wicks for stearine being looser than for paraffin, but tighter than for wax or spermaceti. The plaited wick is flat and curls over as the candle burns, and thus the end is kept projecting into the outer part of the flame where it is consumed, complete combustion being aided by the pickling process it has undergone. In the old tallow dips the strands of cotton were merely twisted together, instead of being plaited; wicks made in this way had no determinate bias towards the outside of the flame, and thus were not wholly consumed, the result being that there was apt to be an accumulation of charred matter, which choked the flame unless removed by periodical “snuffing.”

Four ways of making candles may be distinguished—dipping, pouring, drawing and moulding, the last being that most commonly employed. Dipping is essentially the same as the domestic process already described, but the rate of production is increased by mounting a number of wicks in a series of frames, each of which in turn is brought over the tallow bath so that its wicks can be dipped. Pouring, used in the case of wax, which cannot well be moulded because it contracts in cooling and also has a tendency to stick to the moulds, consists in ladling molten wax upon the wicks suspended from an iron ring. When of the desired thickness the candles are rolled under a plate on a marble slab. In drawing, used for small tapers, the wick, rolled on a drum, is passed through the molten wax or paraffin, drawn through a circular hole and slowly wound on a second drum; it is then passed again through the molten material and through a somewhat larger hole, and reeled back on the first drum, this process being repeated with larger and larger holes until the coating is of the required thickness. In moulding, a number of slightly conical moulds are fixed by the larger extremity to a kind of trough, with their tapered ends projecting downwards and with wicks arranged down their centres. The molten material is poured into the trough and fills the moulds, from which the candles are withdrawn when solidified. Modern candle-moulding machines are continuous in their operation; long lengths of wick are coiled on bobbins, one for each mould, and the act of removing one set of candles from their moulds draws in a fresh set of wicks. “Self-fitting ends,” which were invented by J. L. Field in 1864, and being shaped like a truncated cone enable the candles to be fixed in candlesticks of any diameter, are formed by means of an attachment to the tops of the moulds; spirally twisted candles are, as it were, unscrewed from their moulds. It is necessary to be able to regulate the temperature of the moulds accurately, else the candles will not come out freely and will not be of good appearance. For stearine candles the moulds are immersed in tepid water and the cooling must be slow, else the material will crystallize, though if it be too slow cracking will occur. For paraffin, on the other hand, the moulds must be rather hotter than the molten material (about 200° F.), and must be quickly cooled to prevent the candles from sticking.

A candle-power, as a unit of light in photometry, was defined by the (London) Metropolis Gas Act of 1860 as the light given by a sperm candle, of which six weighed 1 ℔ and each burned 120 grains an hour.

See W. Lant Carpenter, Soaps and Candles (London, 1895); C. E. Groves and W. Thorp, Chemical Technology, vol. ii. “Lighting” (London, 1895); L. L. Lamborn, Soaps, Candles and Glycerine (New York, 1906); J. Lewkowitsch, Oils, Fats, and Waxes (London, 1909).


CANDLEMAS (Lat. festum candelarum sive luminum), the name for the ancient church festival, celebrated annually on the 2nd of February, in commemoration of the presentation of Christ in the Temple. In the Greek Church it is known as Ύπαπάντη τοῦ Κυρίου (“the meeting of the Lord,” i.e. with Simeon and Anna), in the West as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. It is the most ancient of all the festivals in honour of the Virgin Mary. A description is given of its celebration at Jerusalem in the Peregrinatio of Etheria (Silvia), in the second half of the 4th century. It was then kept on the 14th of February, forty days after Epiphany, the celebration of the Nativity (Christmas) not having been as yet introduced; the Armenians still keep it on this day, as “the Coming of the Son of God into the Temple.” The celebration gradually spread to other parts of the church, being moved to the 2nd of February, forty days after the newly established feast of Christmas. In 542 it was established throughout the entire East Roman empire by Justinian. Its introduction in the West is somewhat obscure. The 8th-century Gelasian Sacramentary, which embodies a much older tradition, mentions it under the title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has led some to suppose that it was ordained by Pope Gelasius I. in 492[1] as a counter-attraction to the heathen Lupercalia; but for this there is no warrant. The procession on this day was introduced by Pope Sergius I. (687-701). The custom of blessing the candles for the whole year on this day, whence the name Candlemas is derived, did not come into common use until the 11th century.

In the Quadragesimae de Epiphania as described by Etheria there is, as Monsignor Duchesne points out (Christian Worship, p. 272), no indication of a special association with the Blessed Virgin; and the distinction between the festival as celebrated in the East and West is that in the former it is a festival of Christ, in the latter a festival pre-eminently of the Virgin Mother.

See L. Duchesne, Christian Worship (Eng. trans., London, 1904); art. s.v. by F. G. Holweck in the Catholic Encyclopaedia.


CANDLESTICK, the receptacle for holding a candle, nowadays made in various art-forms. The word was formerly used for any form of support on which lights, whether candles or lamps, were fixed; thus a candelabrum (q.v.) is sometimes spoken of from tradition as a candlestick, e.g. as when Moses was commanded to make a candlestick for the tabernacle, of hammered gold, a talent in weight, and consisting of a base with a shaft rising out of it and six arms, and with seven lamps supported on the summits of the six arms and central shaft. When Solomon built the temple, he placed in it ten golden candlesticks, five on the north and five on the south side of the Holy Place; but after the Babylonish captivity the golden candlestick was again placed in the temple, as it had been before in the tabernacle by Moses. On the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, it was carried with other spoils to Rome. Representations of the seven-branched candlestick, as it is called, occur on the arch of Titus at Rome, and on antiquities found in the Catacombs at Rome. The primitive form of candlestick was a torch made of slips of bark, vine tendrils or wood dipped in wax or tallow, tied together and held in the hand by the lower end, such as are frequently figured on ancient painted vases. The next step was to attach to them a cup (discus) to catch the dripping wax or tallow.

A candlestick may be either “flat” or “tall.” The former has a short stem, rising from a dish, and is usually furnished with an extinguisher fitting into a socket; the latter has a pillar which may be only a few inches in height or may rise to several feet, and rarely has an extinguisher. The flat variety is sometimes called a “bedroom candlestick.” The beginnings of this interesting and often beautiful appliance are not exactly known, but it dates certainly as far back as the 14th century and is probably older. It is most usually of metal, earthenware or china, but originally it was made of some hard wood and had no socketed pillar, the candle fitting upon a metal spike, in the fashion still familiar in the case of many church candlesticks. It has been constantly influenced by mobiliary and architectural fashions, and has varied, as it still varies, from the severest simplicity of form and material to the most elaborate artistic treatment and the costliest materials—gold and silver, crystal, marble and enamel. Previous to the 17th century, iron, latten, bronze and copper were chiefly used, but thenceforward the

  1. So Baronius, Ann. ad ann. 544.