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The Original Speed Date? The Myth and History of the Courting Candle

You find yourself in a thrift store, and while looking through the shelves of trash and treasures, you spot a strange candle in a twisted metal holder. Curious, you ask the woman who furnishes the booth what is so special about this candle. She winks at you.

“That’s a Courting Candle, hun!” She says, “The father of a daughter in question would give this candle to her suitor to act as a subtle timer. Once the candle burned to the metal, the date was over.”

“How quaint,” you say aloud but can’t help but wonder: was that really a thing? Or just a fun story? In this case, it’s both! Let’s look at the history of this “tradition.”

The Past

In a 1998 article, Chicago Tribune wrote a more extensive article positing a theory on how the courting candle may have come into being.

They wrote that the candles in the spiral holders were more than likely created by Germans and brought to the United States with the Pennsylvania-Germans colonists.

As the technology was more primitive and to extract oils from certain seeds and olives was too costly. Honey bees, as we know in the modern-day, were actually not native to North America!

They were introduced in the 1600s by European colonists for their honey production. Since beeswax was rare, it was too expensive for commoners to use in everyday life.

The candle holders are usually made of wrought iron, with a drip pan and a lever to allow the candle to be raised and lowered to make the most of the candle.

See, during this time, candles were made with deer or beef tallow (fat), or they used fat lamps and skipped the candles altogether. Tallow candles were much cheaper for the average Joe.

The dripping tray had more than one purpose. Not only by keeping the surface free from animal fats, but it also collected the wax for re-melting purposes, making it reusable.

The downside of the tallow candles was that they were too soft to stand on their own, hence the wrought iron support of the candle holder.

A father could leave the candle in the sitting room where his daughter and her potential suitor were, as a subtle way to show how much time was left in the date.

As time went on, the ability to raise or lower the candle was seen as a potential timekeeper. If the father didn’t like the daughter’s suitor, he could raise the candle to make a date short or lower it to make it last longer if he liked the man in question.

Once the flame and or wick reach the first bar of the spiraled candle holder, the date or suiter will then excuse himself and say his goodbyes.

Unfortunately, this is more folklore and a really good idea to get your unwanted stock sold. Romance sells candles! When was the last time you watched a chick flick? Somewhere in the movie, there will be candles either in the proposal scene, date scene, or bedroom scene.

The Present

As we use electricity to generate light in various forms, be it through the LED light in your room or the flashlight on your phone. With electricity so cheap, we barely need candles, unless you live in a third-world country or have a lot of power outages.

Candles these days are more used as a decorative piece, for special occasions (Date night or Marriage), religious reasons (when celebrating or mourning a day), setting it alight for aroma reasons (Whenever your special person is in your house) or as a special gift.

Back in the day, you wouldn’t light a candle to set the mood or to make the room smell nice. Tallow candles did not smell pleasant at all, and the only thing that you will be setting is the amount of candlelight in the room by setting a second candle alight.

Candle by the Hour

The most interesting point about the courting candles are the fact that more reproductions of these candles exist than actual candles. Some of them can be found in a museum.

One recreation is the “Candle by the Hour,” a popular candle that burns about 20 minutes per inch. You can feed 1 to 3 inches through the clamp to control the time.

I will definitely need to buy a courting candle, and I will need to make sure it is the shortest one in case I were to have a daughter.

You can also find beautiful hand-forged wrought iron designs from companies like Timeless Wrought Iron and WroughtWorks.

Even if they’re usually found as decorative pieces, the romantic myth of the courting candles are a nice tradition that continues to thrive to this day due to the high demand for these recreations. Why not put a modern touch to a courting candle? Have a courtship candle made with a heart-shaped base and a heart-shaped handle.

Do you like that idea? I want one now!


Question: What was the courting candle used for?

Answer: The courting candle was used to set a time limit between “dates.”

Question: Who discovered candles?

Answer: There is evidence that the earliest candles in China were made from whale fat during the Qin Dynasty around 200 BC. Evidence shows that the Ancient Egyptians were the first to use the earliest form of the candle.

Question: When were candle holders invented?

Answer: The candleholders were invented in 400 BC. The Egyptians are also accredited with one of the earliest forms of a candle holder. These candle holders were made out of clay and were used to keep the candle upright.

Question: Who made the first scented candle?

Answer: Well, the Japanese made candles from wax that was extracted from tree nuts. And In India, they made their candles by boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree.These were the first examples of candles that gave off a pleasant smell.


I hope you found this article interesting. Did you know about the history of the courting candle? And if you were to have a daughter in the future, or you have a daughter that is approaching their dating stage (the stage that is stressful to any parent.) Would you also use the courting candle method when she decides to bring a man home? Or what method would you use to let your daughter know that this is not her prince charming? Let us know in the comments below!

I will definitely use this method if I were to have a daughter, and the fun part is they won’t even know the reason behind this. They will think that I’m helping them make their date more romantic. But in fact, it will be quite the opposite, mwahaha! Do you use candles as decor in your house? Let us know in the comments below.