WENDY HUGHES TELLS YOU ABOUT THE TRADITIONAL HISTORY OF CHRISTINGLE
Christingle services are held in churches, usually on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve. It is an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to join in, using oranges to create a visible symbol of the Christian message.
The tradition of the Christingle can be traced back to Bishop Johannes de Watteville who on 20th December 1747, at a Moravian children’s service held in a castle in Marienborn, Germany. At the service the Bishop gave children a lighted candle with a red ruff wrapped around it in memory of the Saviour’s, birth. Hymns were sung and verses read out which the children had written to celebrate the birth of Jesus. He then explained to the children the happiness that had come to people through Jesus, ‘who has kindled in each little heart a flame which keeps burning to their joy and our happiness.’ The service ended with this prayer, ‘Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become’.
Soon the ideas spread from Church to Church in England by the late 1700s, and much later, this simple candle was replaced by a more elaborate Christingle which is rich in symbolism and consists of:
- an orange which represents the world
- a red ribbon, tied round the orange that represents the blood of Jesus
- fruits and sweets, skewered on 4 cocktail sticks which are pushed into the orange represents the four directions, North, South, East and Wes and God’s good gifts – the fruits of the earth and the four seasons
- A lighted candle, pushed into the centre of the orange represents Christ, the light of the world, and the lighted candle, pushed into the centre of the orange, represents Christ, the light of the world.
The Moravian Church took the custom of this service with them 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. 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 “engel” (angel), meaning “Christ-angel”, or it may derive from the German “kindle” (child), meaning “Christ-child”. It is essentially a children’s service and usually includes the traditional Moravian carol:-
Morning Star, O cheering sight!
Ere thou cam’st how dark earth’s night!
In me shine;
Fill my heart with light divine.
Morning star, thy glory bright
Far excels the sun’s clear light:
More than thousand suns to me.
Thy glad beams, thou morning star,
Cheer the nations near and far;
Thee we own
Man’s great Saviour, God’s dear Son.
Morning star, my soul’s true light,
Tarry not, dispel my night;
In me shine;
Fill my heart with the light divine..
The word Christingle could have come from several sources. It might be an ‘English’ version of ‘Christkindl’ (meaning little Christ child), the present bringer is some parts of Germany and other European countries, who represents the baby Jesus. It could be the putting together of the words Christmas and ingle. Ingle is an old Scots word for fire and so that would make it mean the ‘Christ Light’. As Christingles originally came from Germany, the first theory is more likely.
Christingles were made popular in the England by The first Christingle service held in the Church of England was in 1968. The idea came from John Pensom who was also known as ‘Mr Christingle’ People didn’t think the service would work as making the Christingles would be too complicated – but they were wrong and the custom has spread through to all kinds of churches and is one of the most common and popular Christmas services in the UK, especially among children and the services are still normally used to raise money for children’s charities.