At the end of our crib service we give the children something we
call a Christingle
They look like this
Yes, you're right, this is an orange with a red ribbon, and sticks in, with sweets and a candle, or (health and safety) sometimes with a glow stick.
I can already hear your question - why? well, my usual explanation to the rescue, so here goes.
The history of Christingle’s can be dated back to 1747 and the Maravian Church in Germany, and the minister Rev John de Wateville. At the first service he gave the children a lighted candle with red ribbon or cloth around it, he wanted to illustrate that this represented Jesus being the light of the world.
After that there was no stopping this custom, and by the 1700s it had gone around the world, thanks largely to Missionaries bringing the Moravian church and its customs to England.
In Moravian churches the
the Christingle service is usually held on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve, so for us at St Francis to hold it with our Crib service seems very right and fitting, and therefore brings it all together.
As you can imagine over the years the symbolism of the Christingle grew into what we know today, and this is what it all represents.
• The Orange is round like the world.
• The candle stands tall and when lit gives light in the dark like the love of God.
• The red ribbon goes around the middle as a symbol of the blood that Jesus shed when he died for us on Good Friday, sometimes in other churches they might put white ribbon round to represent purity
• The four sticks in the four directions represent the points on the compass, north east south and west, they can also stand for the four seasons.
• The fruit or sweets represent the fruits of the earth, nurtured by the sun and rain and the bounty that God gives us.
So where does the name come from, well, there are several theories, the word Christingle could have come from several places, it could be the English word for “Christkindl” which means little Christ child, this is the present bringer in some parts of Germany and other European countries who represents the baby Jesus, bit like Father Christmas or the American, Santa Claus.
Or it could be the putting together of two words, Christmas and ingle.
Ingle is an old Scottish word for fire and then that would make its
meaning, the Christ light, however after all this going around in circles as Christingle's originally came from Germany, the first idea is the most likely.
Christingle's became widely known in England for their connection to The Children’s Society, (this is one of the earliest children’s charities in the UK and it has strong connections with the Church of England), and that’s why you probably would have known it by its former name The Church of England Children’s society.
The First Christingle service held in the Church of England was in 1968.
The idea came from a John Pensom, who was also known as (you've guessed it) Mr. Christingle.
People didn’t think the service would succeed as making the Christingles would be too fiddly and complicated, (Ha) they were wrong.
The custom spread to all kinds of churches and today is one of the most common and popular Christmas children services in the UK, and it success just keeps growing, in the 2000s over 5000 Christingle's services were being held in the UK, in 2018, over 6000 services,
all raising funds for The Children’s Society, each year this special service raises over 1.2 million to help vulnerable young people, and in 2018 celebrated its 50th year.
Here at St Francis the combined crib and Christingle service is as popular as ever, however we do carry on and continue to use the service to highlight The Children’s Society and raise funds for this fantastic cause, and we always have a retiring collection to aid and help this charity.
We do look forward to seeing you over our Christmas period at St Francis, we look forward to welcoming you to our crib and Christingle service, and now you know a little more about them, we hope you’ll look at them, not just as a bizarrely decorated orange but as an inspirational symbol that helps young people’s lives.
For those of you who would like to help make these Christingles up, we will be in the Vicarage from 2pm on Sunday 22nd December, for further info, please contact