Christingle means ‘Christ’s Light’ and this is the time of year many churches hold Christingle Services. Christingle services began with a Moravian congregation in Marienborn, Germany in 1747, when children at a special children’s service were told how Jesus, the Light of the World, had come to Earth to kindle an everlasting flame in their hearts. They were then presented with little candles tied round with red ribbons to symbolize this. Later on, these ‘Christingles’ evolved into the more elaborate form used today, with candles representing Christ’s light inserted into oranges representing the world. Red ribbons representing Christ’s Blood are wrapped around the oranges, and the oranges also have four candy-covered sticks in them: the sticks representing the four directions, north, south, east, and west, and the candies the fruits of the Earth.
Though Christingle services can be held at any time during Advent and on through to Epiphany, our church has always held them on Christmas Eve. Even before I became a parent, I found them a bit unsettling, as Christingles were handed out to any child old enough to walk, and as a teacher, I considered this folly of the highest order. I anticipated singeing of the hair, fingers, and/or clothing of at least one kid to be imminent, but since I was not directly responsible for any of the little pyromaniacs waving them about, I still managed to pay some attention to the service. All that changed the first Christmas Eve I showed up with a kid of my own in tow and someone handed him a Christingle. Once the thing was lit, he, and it, were pretty much my whole focus until the blessed moment we were allowed to blow them out – which most parents of under-sevens did with alacrity. After that, until such time as the offspring outgrew them, I spent all Christingle services on high alert.
They are quite charming though, so if there are any in your area (and you have steady nerves), you should consider attending one. And if there aren’t, kids can find instructions for making Christingles at: http://www.topmarks.co.uk/christmas/MakeChristingle.aspx