Candles haven’t always been a charming home decor must-have. In fact, candles are at the center of a slew of different superstitions, ranging from the superficial and funny to the dark and sinister. Candles can be traced back in history for centuries, but many people don’t realize that many cultures used candles for much more ominous purposes than just to cast a bit of reading light. Intrigued? You will be soon!
Birthday Cake Candles
We’ll start off with something a bit lighter, just to get our feet wet. Candles stuck in a cake can actually be traced back to Ancient Greece, as an offering to deities in general, and goddess Artemis in particular. Flash forward to Germany circa 1746, where Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf (now there’s a mouthful) threw himself a birthday bash for the ages, topping his lavish cake with a number of candles corresponding with his age. Quite the trend setter, that man, because this quickly became the norm for all birthdays in Germany from there on out.
Somewhere along the line, superstition around the act of blowing out candles began to form with people from a slew of different cultures fervently believing that one would be granted a wish if they could blow all the candles out in one fell swoop. Who doesn’t love a bit of magic on their birthdays, right?
Fun Fact: A 2017 study from the Journal of Food Research reported that blowing out birthday candles on a cake increased the amount of bacteria on the icing by 1400%.
What’d you get for your birthday this year? The plague.
Candles being lit in churches dates back all the way to the Old Testament, and most denominations still use candles in their practices to this day. Lighting votive candles within the church indicates the offering of a prayer or as a symbol for Christ, who is known in the Christian bible as the “Light of the World.” See, that wasn’t so scary, right?
Well, here’s another church-candle doozy of a tidbit for you. In Belgium, it is believed that, if an altar candle burns out for no discernible reason, it’s a sign that the minister will soon die. Now, if another candle somewhere else in the church burns out, someone in the congregation is doomed to die. (yeesh)
There are countless superstitions from around the world that warn of the bad luck that will come if you light a candle and then forget about it. Other than it could potentially cause a giant fire, which is an obvious reason not to leave a burning candle unattended, lore tells us that a candle that accidentally burns all the way down will bring ill fortune on one who lit it. It makes sense, since a dark home might be easier for an intruder to sneak in unnoticed.
Been searching for ways to keep your farmyard birds safe? (who isn’t) If so, this superstition is for you. Long ago, English farmers would carefully wave a lit candle over and around their hatching chicken eggs, believing that this was a way to bless their chicks and protect them from being snatched by hungry hawks. Not being farmers in the days of yore, we can neither confirm or deny if this actually works. Worth a shot though, right?
Boring day? Itching for someone to spill some tea? Light a candle and watch the flame. An old wive’s tale suggests that if the flame suddenly jumps and flickers, a neighbor has gossip to share. (Oohh, goody!)
And, finally, we will end on a creepy note to celebrate the spooky season. Séances used to interact with the “other side” would often light a series of candles, asking any spirits present to use the flames to pass along messages. If these candles were to suddenly blow out, it was thought that a benevolent spirit was not only present, but looking to do harm to those participating in the ceremony. (Yeah, no thanks).
Yes, we realize that many of these superstitions are probably just that— silly, unfounded fears— but that doesn’t make knowing the history of our favorite home decor item any less interesting, right? Now, if this makes you a little gun-shy to simply blow out your candles, definitely check out some of our accessories, like our Kalamazoo Candle Co. Wick Dippers.
Better safe than cursed for all eternity, right?