Who Says Candlestick Jumping Not A Sport
The origin of well known nursery rhymes is often obscure, and historians often disagree. Consider the following brief rhyme we’ve all know since childhood. Two different explanations are offered, and while both are interesting, they cannot both be right. Choose the one you like best.
Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over
The candle stick.
The Annotated Mother Goose, by W. W. and Ceil Baring-Gould, says that jumping over a candle was both a sport and a way of telling fortunes in England for centuries. A candlestick with a lighted candle on it was placed on the floor. A person who could jump over it without putting out the flame was assured of having good luck for a full year.
In The Early American House, by Mary Earle Gould (the name similarity is a coincidence,) an entirely different viewpoint is offered. During the candle making process, the wicks were cut twice the length of the candle, doubled, and twisted to make one slender cord with a loop at the end.
A candle rod, which was a slender, smooth stick of birch or hickory, was thrust through the loops of several wicks. Two chairs were placed back to back, and rods about 24 inches long were placed on top of the backs. On these rods rested six or eight of the shorter candle rods holding the wicks. Thus, 30 to 40 candles could be prepared at a time. According to this author, Jack’s candle stick was one of those long sticks resting on the chair.
It would certainly represent more of a feat to jump over an object as high as a chair back than over a short candle in a holder placed on the floor. But, of course, if Jack was a very small person, that candle on the floor might seem very high.
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