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’.

Moravian_Christingles

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:

  1. an orange  which represents the world
  2. a red ribbon, tied round the orange that represents the blood of Jesus
  3. 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
  4. 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.

christingale service

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!
Jesus mine,
In me shine;
Fill my heart with light divine.

Morning star, thy glory bright
Far excels the sun’s clear light:
Jesus be
Constantly,
More than thousand suns to me.

Thy glad beams, thou morning star,
Cheer the nations near and far;
Thee we own
Lord alone,
Man’s great Saviour, God’s dear Son.

Morning star, my soul’s true light,
Tarry not, dispel my night;
Jesus mine,
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.

About Wendy Hughes

Wendy turned to writing, in 1989, when ill-health and poor vision forced her into early medical retirement. Since then she has published 26 nonfiction books, and over 2000 articles. Her work has appeared in magazines as diverse as The Lady, Funeral Service Journal, On the Road, 3rd Stone, Celtic Connections, Best of British, and Guiding magazine. She has a column in an America/Welsh newspaper for ex-pats on old traditions and customs in Wales. Her books include many on her native Wales, Anglesey Past and Present, The Story of Brecknock, Brecon, a pictorial History of the Town, Carmarthen, a History and Celebration and Tales of Old Glamorgan, and a book on Walton on Thames in the Images of England series, a company history and two books on the charity Hope Romania. She has also co-authored two story/activity books for children. Her latest books are: Haunted Worthing published in October 2010, a new colour edition of The Story of Pembrokeshire published in March 2011, and Shipwrecks of Sussex in June 2011 and Not a Guide to Worthing in 2014. She is working on a book entitled A-Z of Curious Sussex which will be published in 2016 Wendy also works with clients to bring their work up to publishable standard and is currently working on an autobiography with a lady that was married to a very famous 1940’s travel writer. Wendy has spent many years campaigning and writing on behalf of people affected by Stickler Syndrome, a progressive genetic connective tissue disorder from which she herself suffers. She founded the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and raises awareness of the condition amongst the medical profession, and produces the group’s literature, and has written the only book on the condition, Stickler The Elusive Syndrome, and has also contributed to a DVD on the condition, Stickler syndrome: Learning the Facts. She has also writing three novels, Sanctimonious Sin, a three generation saga set in Wales at the turn of the century, Power That Heal set in the Neolithic period entitled Powers that Heal, and a semi biographical book entitled New Beginnings which deals with two generations coping with blindness and a genetic condition. She has also had a handful of short stories published, and in her spare time is working on several at the moment. She also gives talks on a variety of subjects including Writing and Placing Articles, Writing Local History, Writing as Therapy, Writing your first novel, etc, and runs workshops on the craft of writing – both fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and a member of the Society of Authors.