The name "candlestick" derives from the purpose of the device as a place to secure or "stick" a burning candle; candlesticks have a cup or a spike (or both in some designs) to keep the candle in place. Webster's II New College Dictionary defines a candlestick as "an often ornamental holder for securing a candle or candles." Candlesticks are less frequently called "candleholders", a word not found in most dictionaries prior to 1960.
Although electric lighting has phased out candles in many parts of the world, candlesticks and candelabra are still used in some Western countries homes as a decorative element or to add atmosphere on special occasions. Before the proliferation of electricity services, candles were brought into the bedroom using chambersticks, which were shorter than ordinary candleholders and furnished with a wide pan to catch the wax drippings. Although not all candlesticks had base pans, it was a common feature on early examples.
In the context of candlesticks, a pricket is a sharp point onto which a candle is placed to keep it erect. On a regular candlestick, this may be a short point on the seat of the candle, but a "pricket candlestick" refers to a very large point (onto which the candle is placed) with a small base.
Candles and candlesticks are also used frequently in religious rituals and for spiritual means as both functional and symbolic lights. In Jewish homes, two candles are lit to mark the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown every Friday, hence, candlesticks are often on display. A seven-branched candelabrum, known as the Menorah, is the national symbol of the State of Israel, based on the candelabrum that was used in the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times. Another special candelabrum found in many Jewish homes is the Hanukiah, the Hanukkah menorah that holds eight candles, plus an extra one for lighting the others.
Tall candlesticks and altar lamps are often found in Christian churches as well, while a special set of two- and three-branched candelabra called the dikirion and trikirion is used by Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishops to bless people at worship services.
- Webster's II New College Dictionary Entry for candlestick, page 161. Copyright 1995, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston New York
- "Catholic Encyclopedia: Altar Candlesticks". Retrieved 14 October 2014.
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