The idea of Christingles came from a Moravian church in Germany in 1747. The minister, John of Watteville, gave the children in service a lit candle with a red ribbon around them.
This represented Jesus being the light of the world and the final prayer of that first service was “Lord Jesus, light a flame in the hearts of these children, who are like yours.” Custom went around the world with the church. The missionaries brought the Church of Moravia to England in the eighteenth century. In the churches of Moravia, the Christingle Service is usually carried out on the Sunday before Christmas or Christmas Eve.
Over the years, Christingle’s symbolism became what is now known as Christingle.
This is what the different parts of Christingle represent:
The orange is round like the world.
The candle stays high and straight and gives light in the darkness as the love of God.
The red ribbon goes all over the “world” and is a symbol of the blood that Jesus shed when He died for us.
The four poles point in all directions and symbolize the North, the South, the East and the West, they also represent the four seasons.
Fruits and nuts (or sometimes sweet!) Represent the fruits of the earth, nourished by sun and rain.
The word Christingle could have come from several sources. It can be an “English” version of “Christkindl” (meaning little Christ child), present in some parts of Germany and other European countries, which represents the baby Jesus. It could be the setting of the words “Christmas” and “groin”. Ingle is an old Scottish word for fire and that is why it would mean the “Light of Christ”. As Christingles originally came from Germany, the first theory is more likely.
Christingles became popular in England for The Children’s Society (one of the first charities for children in the United Kingdom and has strong connections with the Church of England). The first Christingle service held in the Church of England was in 1968. The idea came from John Pensom, also known as “Mr Christingle”. People did not think the service would work, since it made the Christingles too complicated, but they were wrong! The custom has spread to all types of churches and is one of the most common and popular Christmas services in the United Kingdom, especially among children. Christingles services still often raise money for charities for children.
There is a tradition of New Year’s Day in Wales dating back to the Middle Ages called Calennig. The children went around the houses, sang songs and rhymes and wished good luck to the people for the new year. They hope to get some money and treats in return! Some adults would go to Calennig very early in the morning / night on January 1st and they would sing very loudly! It has similarities with Carol Singing and Wassailing.
People often carried a Calennig apple, an apple on a tripod of twigs or sticks (so that it can get up) and decorated with nuts, cloves and vegetation. This has sometimes been associated with Christingles although they are not related at all! Calennig means “celebration of new year or gift / first day of the month”. Calennig can also now mean the big New Year celebrations held in Welsh cities like Cardiff.