The Gruesome Truth of How the Roman Candle Got its Name
Is there anything more exciting than watching a well-produced fireworks show? Actually, there probably are a lot of things but in the heat of the moment, I think we’d all agree fireworks are pretty cool. Especially when things go wrong, watch your volume on this one.
And we would probably agree there are two schools of thought on the best way to enjoy fireworks. For some people, they need to be right by the rocket's red glare with a burning match ready to light up the night. For others, they are more “the watchers”. The folks that provide the oohs and the aahs for every incendiary episode.
To coin a corny phrase, fireworks are a blast and a lot of us like to get creative with them when we buy them for our own personal use. In Louisiana, we have two times each year when fireworks are available for sale. Those times are from Noon on June 16th through midnight on July 5th. And from Noon on December 15th through midnight on January 1st.
You’ve probably figured out that Louisiana law is set up so that fireworks enthusiasts can find their favorite things that go BOOM! In the night just in time to celebrate the July 4th holiday and to celebrate New Year’s Eve too. If you’re like me you have the favorites that you like to buy and your reasons for buying them
I know at our house we like bottle rockets and firecrackers and we always get one or two “expensive” rockets and some Roman candles too. The name bottle rocket is pretty self-explanatory. You’re supposed to place the rocket and its long stick into the neck of a bottle to fire it.
Firecrackers, that name makes decent sense too. You light it on fire and it goes crack. But what about Roman candles? You're familiar with the firework that shoots out the brightly colored balls of light? How did that get its name?
Let’s just say the naming of the Roman candle isn’t as straightforward as the bottle rocket and the firecracker. The name is derived or maybe it should be just called depraved from the actions of the Roman Emperor Nero. Nero was not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination. He’s the fellow that was alleged to have played his fiddle while Rome burned.
Burning, the act of lighting things on fire, figures into the Roman candle name as well. The problem is that in ancient Rome those candles weren’t made of wax and weren't fortified with romantic scents and essential oils. The candles of ancient Rome were people. Christian people to be specific.
The Romans would capture Christians and tie them to a stake. They would then smear their bodies with pitch oil, a very flammable but slow-burning material. They’d start a small fire at the feet of their captive and watch as the fire slowly climbed up the body of their victim.
But what’s even sicker is that Nero is said to have used the light from the fires of burning Christians to light up his nighttime entertainment activities. Of course, we can’t actually confirm all of this but there are historical references that seem to back this narrative up. I can’t even imagine the sight, the sounds especially of the victims screaming in pain, and the stench.
Nothing like historical facts to really take something fun and mess it all up, huh? And speaking of things that smell bad when heat is applied, somebody open a window, please.
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