The light from a solitary candle can soothe all who gaze upon it when night falls. No matter how humble the abode, a flickering candle emits a warm glow that kindles feelings of love, just like Julia Roberts finds in the movie Eat Pray Love as she sighs her way to happiness.
A simple tallow candle could well have stirred romantic emotions in English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, known for his Canterbury Tales. He is also credited for being the first to associate Valentine’s Day with romantic love.
In his 1382 poem Parliament of Fowls, the line “For this was on Saint Valentine’s day, When every fowl comes there his mate to take,” is the first reference ever recorded about this special day, says US historian Jack Oruch.
Back in 3,000BC, the Egyptians were using a rough form of candle to light up the dark. By 200BC the Chinese were making them out of whale fat. Europe started developing candles from tallow in the early Middle Ages, so the evening smells then must have been overwhelming — hardly conducive to romance.
Today, scented versions play a huge part in the romance of candles, for smell enhances the mood and can trigger memories. While a warm bath sprinkled with rose petals is exotically romantic, it doesn’t have quite the same ambience without scented candles dotted around its edges.
“The popularity of scented candles has become a worldwide phenomenon,” says Barbara Miller, spokesperson for the National Candle Association in the US, where about 80 per cent of candles sold are scented. “Only a few years ago, it was largely considered a North American trend,” Miller says. But a notable trend at last year’s tri-annual World Candle Congress held in Hollywood was the globalisation of the industry. “Economic and regulatory changes in one region of the world is likely to have a global impact,” she adds.
There has been a rise in scented candle sales in the UAE, particularly during traditional celebrations including Valentine’s Day, says Fatemah Sherif, Research Analyst, Euromonitor International.
“The air-care market has very much been influenced by the fragrance trend, which started off in the perfume market in 2012, moving into the air-care market where consumers seek sophisticated air fresheners that represent their own home space,” she says.
Popular scents among Emiratis and Arab expatriates include the Arabian fragrance oud. Other nationalities prefer lavender, chocolate, cinnamon, sandalwood and vanilla.
Miller says that in Europe natural beeswax has always been popular primarily due to its pleasant aroma, although it is expensive because of limited supply. “Natural vegetable-based waxes for candles witnessed a dramatic rise in popularity in the US from around 2005. Soy wax is especially popular with individuals concerned with sustainability and green policies,” she says.
In the UAE, demand for environmentally friendly scented candles is “insignificant as consumers are not as aware or educated about such products”, says Sherif.
The Archipelago Furniture Group based in Dubai plans to change this by offering ethical candles from Bali created by the Natural Light Candle Company.
“We didn’t see anything in Dubai that matched the individually handcrafted beeswax candles made with European fragrance oils, of our Bali supplier. We also like the fact that this tiny workshop has strict socially responsible and fair trade practices,” says Bridgit Little, Managing Director, Archipelago Furniture Group.
Little believes that the UAE consumer is more sophisticated than credited for and would adopt more environmentally friendly options given the choice.