Friday, 4 December 2009
The custom of the Christingle began in the Moravian Church and was first used as part of a Christmas Children's Festival in the Marienborn Congregation in Germany on the 24th December 1747.
No one knows for certain when the word "Christingle" was first used or from what it derived, but wherever the Moravians went in the great outreach of missionary evangelism in the 18th and 19th centuries they took with them the custom of the Christingle.
The symbolism gradually developed and today in the Moravian Church in Britain, the Christingle consists of an orange representing the World, with the candle inserted in the centre and lit to represent Christ the Light of the World.
The candle used to be held on a goose quill, part of which was split into fronds, on which were impaled nuts, fruits, raisins and sweets. These stood for the created order over which Christ is King, and for the fruits of the earth and the benefits that come to our lives through God's bounty and goodness. Today the fruit is usually slid onto cocktail sticks stuck into the orange, the wood still being part of God's created order.
Sometimes red crepe paper is used to form a frill at the base of the candle which is a reminder of Christ's Passion, through which our redemption has come. A white frill often used denotes the purity of Christ's life as an example for us all.
The Christingle Service is usually held on the Sunday before Christmas, and is a children's celebration in which we place the child in the midst of all we do, just as the Christ child is the centre of all our lives.
At the climax of the service, each child receives a lighted Christingle and in the magical moment of the darkened Church, the visual symbol tells the truth of the Christmas story, - that in the darkness of the world there has shined a great light. In the darkness, with the lighted Christingle, the children often sing the Traditional Moravian Carol: Morning Star, O Cheering sight.
Many years ago, children were asked to take a gift to put beside the crib in church. One family had no money for gifts but were determined to take something. They found an orange which they felt would be okay, but were disappointed to find it was going mouldy at the top. However, they thought they would scoop out the bad bits and put a candle in the top and turn it into a lantern. Thinking that it looked a bit ordinary, one of the girls took a red ribbon from her hair and tied it around the middle. They had difficulty getting it to stay in place, so fastened it with four small sticks, on the ends of which they put a few raisins. They took their lantern to church and were afraid of the reactions of the other children. However, the priest acknowledged their gift and told the congregation how special it was for the following reasons:
The orange is round like the world.
The candle stands tall and straight and gives light in the dark like the love of God.
The red ribbon goes all around the 'world' and is a symbol of the blood Jesus shed when he died for us.
The four sticks point in all directions and symbolise North, South, East and West - they also represent the four seasons.
The fruit and nuts (or sometimes sweets!) represent the fruits of the earth, nurtured by the sunshine and the rain.