In the past, artificial lighting was not possible without candles. Besides the fireplace or oil lamps, there was no other light source in the house allowing hand work, or reading or writing after sunset. Although the population was much less than it is today and people generally slept early, the consumption of candles was already substantial.
The infrastructures were precarious and raw material of poor quality, the production of candles was regional, and remained on a small artesian scale. For churches, the sacristans were commonly in charge, but in the farms, candles were also made by families during long winter months. In the cities, the candle manufacturers would make a good living. Ancient illustrations show how the work was carried out. Following a consumption peak at the middle of the last century, thanks to the discovery of new raw material such as stearin and paraffin wax, and the invention of braided wicks, the consumption of candles after 1900, dropped drastically. Gas and petrol based lighting, but especially the arrival of electric light, seemed to have marked the end of candle sales.
But fortunately, at the time, the use of candles besides in churches, in restaurants and homes picked up a bit. Slowly, sales started around Christmas time, and again progressively all year round. With the arrival of electricity, the candle had lost its place as a light source. It received however a new role: the one of creating an atmosphere, a romantic feel and warmth.
The very high raise in consumption
The considerable raise in candle consumption is related to a certain number of reasons. It is quite common that useful objects, because of a trend change or new discoveries, loose their own and are forgotten. A new function is devolved to them: that to create an atmosphere.
The popularity of candles grew by making them trendy with shapes and colours. Previously, a candle was always white and cylindrical. Nowadays, all the colours of the rainbow are represented. Shapes and sizes changed also: round, cylindrical, egg shaped candles, torches, party candles etc appeared in sales outlets. The packing also played their part: the former closed box left its place to more attractive packaging, transparent, multicoloured, allowing the product to be seen.
Manufacturers and distributors consider more and more that candle sales are based on an impulse buy. The consumer does not especially go shopping for candles. But she will easily be tempted by beautiful packaging in which the value of the product is enhanced. If the layout of the different colours is also optimal, the effect will be even more irresistible.
This phenomenon is also noticeable in the change of consumption units: in 1970, candles were still retail sold. Later, they were more and more sold in boxes of two or four candles. And little by little the quantities grew: 12, 14, 20, 30 and 50, and even 100 sometimes. The same happened with tealights.
To consume candles, chandeliers are a must. In the olden days, houses didn’t possess them and the diameters of the candleholders didn’t correspond with the candles. It was thought that the more chandeliers were owned by a family, the more demand there would be.
The good old candle has now become a warm atmosphere creator. The industry very well anticipated this evolution by offering a very large variety of candles: party candles, Christmas, Easter, summer candles, restaurant, and fancy candles. Thanks to a well thought production and distribution system, these items can be offered all over in large quantities and at market prices.
By commercializing these products, the candle industry knowingly contributed to spread out the candle consumption all year round.