Votive candles are small molded candles, very popular, that need to be burnt in little holders adapted to their size and shape.
Burnt in ideal conditions, a votive candle will last about 15 hours.
In ancient times, in the catholic tradition, votive offerings were made to God and / or one or several saints. These offerings were usually accompanied by a specific request to the divinity (protection against a potential or actual danger, recovery from illness, special favor) or were given as a thank you gift for a fulfilled prayer.
Several hundreds of years ago, these offerings could be anything, with a predilection for an item representing the person whose wish had been granted. For example, on his wedding day, king Henry the Third of England had a golden statue made to the image of his new queen and had this (royal) offering placed on the altar of St Edward in Westminster.
Nowadays, offerings are far more modest and, most of the time, it's a candle that is set to burn to accompany one's prayer or request.
Votive candles are commonly used for that purpose thanks to their small size, relative longevity and the ability to place them in a holder that protects their flame from drafts, quite common in churches.
Votive candles have a characteristic shape: about 5,5 cm (2 inches) high and slightly wider at the top than at the bottom.
This is why most of the votive holders available on the market are made to fit that type of votive candles perfectly. Nevertheless, new shapes have started to appear, of which the most popular is probably the flower pot-shaped votive. The fitting holder also becomes more and more readily available.
Less common but available from selected manufacturers (both the candles and the molds to create them), the hexagonal and straight side votives (as large at the top than at the bottom) fit in regular, tapered holders.
Sometimes, you'll even find candles that wear the "votive" label but are actually very small pillar candles...
Because of their shape, the formulation of their wax and the size and type of the wick used, votive candles must only be burnt in a fitting holder, specially adapted to their shape.
Burnt this way, you insure a regular and much longer combustion. Without a holder, a votive has a tendency to leak wax. This is not only quite ugly, remember that all the wax that can escape the melt pool won't be vaporized by the flame and this seriously reduces the burn time. With a holder, every gram of wax is and remains available to be burnt.
Votive holders can be purchased in an amazing selection of materials (polished or plain glass, ceramics, metal, ...) and, if you look around, you'll find holders in every price range!