Many people have heard of Christingles and Christingle Services have become very popular in Churches at Christmas time, but few people realise that it originates in the Moravian Church.
The idea of the Christingle began in the Moravian congregation of Marienborn in Germany on 20th December 1747. At a children’s service hymns were sung and the minister, John de Watteville, read verses which the children had written to celebrate the birth of Jesus. He then explained to the children the happiness which had come to people through Jesus, “who has kindled in each little heart a flame which keeps burning to their joy and our happiness”.
To make the point even clearer, each child then received a little lighted wax candle, tied round with a red ribbon. The minister ended the service with this prayer, “Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become”. The Marienborn Church Diary concludes, “hereupon the children went full of joy with their lighted candles to their rooms and so went glad and happy to bed”.
The Moravian Church took the custom of this Candle Service to Labrador and Pennsylvania, to Tibet and Suriname, to the Caribbean and South Africa, and people in each part of the world adapted it for their own use. In the North American Moravian Church the candle services just before Christmas are very popular and beeswax candles with red ribbon are still used.
However this Candle Service developed quite differently in the British Moravian Church and became what is now widely known as the Christingle, and Christingles have spread to wherever British Moravian Missionaries have served.
No one knows for certain when the word ‘Christingle’ was first used or from what it is derived. Various suggestions have been made. One is that it comes from the old Saxon word ‘ingle’ (fire) meaning ‘Christ fire or light’. Another is that it derives from the German ‘engle’ (angel), meaning ‘Christ-angel; or it may derive from the German ‘kindle’ (child), meaning ‘Christ-child’.
The symbolism gradually developed, and today in the Moravian Church in the British Province, the Christingle consists of an orange, representing the world with a lighted candle to represent Christ, the Light of the World. Raisins and sweets on cocktail sticks around the candle represent God’s bounty and goodness in providing the fruits of the earth. Red paper, forming a frill around the base of the candle, reminds us of the blood of Christ shed for all people on the cross at Calvary.
At Fulneck the School holds Christingle Services for the pupils and students right at the end of the Christmas Term. The Church holds it’s Christingle Service at 6pm on Christmas Eve. The lights are dimmed as the ladies in traditional Chapel Servant dress give out the Christingles to all the children. In this timeless moment in the darkened Church the visual symbol of the Christingle expresses the truth that in the darkness of the world there shines a great light – Jesus Christ – and that he is at the heart of all of our Christmas celebrations.
Everyone is welcome to join us at 6pm on Christmas Eve for our Christingle Service.