Candelabra are candlesticks with two or more branching arms. Traditionally, candelabra were used as a source of light, and they continue to be used ornamentally in regions with electricity, especially during the winter holidays, when a glow of light from a candelabrum can be a reminder of brighter times ahead. In some parts of the world, people also use the term “candelabra” to refer to decorative electric light fixtures, although this usage is not technically correct, considering that the word is derived from the Latin candela, which means “candle,” not “lightbulb.” Many interior design stores sell candelabra in a wide range of styles, and you can also find them at antique stores and auctions.
A singular candelabrum can vary widely in size, shape, and styling. Generally, a solid central column connected to a broad base is the support, with arms branching out in a row from the central column. A candelabrum often has two arms on either side of the central column, creating spaces for three candles, although it is possible to find candelabra with many more arms. Some candelabra are quite large, intended for use as free standing pillars of candles on the floor; you can see examples of this style in some churches. Others are smaller, more ideally suited to use on the dinner table or mantel.
In antiquity, candelabra were made from metals like bronze, brass, and silver. In some cultures, clay candleholders with multiple arms were made, and when glass blowing was perfected, ornamental glass candelabra also became available. However, metal continues to be the most common production material for candelabra, presumably because it is extremely sturdy and easy to shape.
The arms of a candelabra may be at the same height, or different heights, and they can be ornamented with leaves, twists, grooves, and other features, or entirely plain. Often, a candelabra has numerous decorative accents like scrolls, foliage, and spirals in the metal which make it ornamental as well as functional. The candles are held in cups which are affixed to the arms and central column.
Many people are familiar with the special multi-armed candelabrum known as a menorah. Menorahs are used during the celebration of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday. It is also possible, of course, to purchase candelabra with many arms for non-religious use. For particularly ambitious decorators, some companies make giant candelabra which rival those used in Greek and Roman temples in size.