I recently asked friends on Facebook about Christmas traditions and got a great response.
Some talked about Advent, including singing of the hymns “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Others mentioned the Christ child’s symbolism. And a few went deeper into the human psyche talking about faith and how it affects health, remembering those not around to celebrate the holidays, and why the holidays are hard and can test your faith.
My sister-in-law Heather Tisdale, who lives in Wales, had me headed to the internet to find out about Christingle.
Christingle is an object and also a church or school service that occurs from mid-November to February in Britain. However, most Christingle services are held in Advent.
A service features the lighting of Christingle candles and can also include prayers, singing, readings or dramas.
It was introduced in 1968 when it was used to raise money for the Children’s Society. During a service, children would exchange money for a Christingle, essentially a candle stuck in an orange.
In recent years, the charity estimates 5,000 Christingle services are held each year.
The modern Christingle is an orange wrapped in a red ribbon with a candle sticking out of it. Four toothpicks placed in the orange are skewered with fruit and nuts or other sweets.
Each item is a symbol: the orange is the world, the red ribbon is the love and blood of Christ, the candle is Christ’s light to the world. The four skewers are the compass or seasons and the treats represent God’s creation. Keeping with modern times, apparently some organizations have switched from candles to glow sticks to avoid having children hold lit candles. Childrenssociety.org.uk has a video showing how to make a Christingle.
While relatively new, the tradition comes from Christingles used in the Moravian Church as early as 1747. The pastor gave children a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon to help them understand Jesus is the light to the world.
Moravian missionaries came to England in the 1700s, bringing the idea with them. In Moravian churches, the Christingle Service is usually the Sunday before Christmas or Christmas Eve.
The origin of the name has a couple of stories. One says it is from Christkindl, which means little Christ child, and comes from Germany where, in some parts of the country, Christkindl brings presents. Another idea says it’s Christmas combined with ingle, the old Scots word for fire.
Sources: bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30186196, asht.org.uk/blog/so-what-is-a-christingle-service, metro.co.uk/2018/12/07/make-christingle-meaning-behind-8219227/, thisischurch.com/christian_teaching/christingle.htm, whychristmas.com/customs/christingles.shtml