Later this year, the St Francis Singers will host a Christingle service. I wondered what Christingle is all about, so I went looking. It seems that Christingle is a fairly new Christmas tradition relative to our other traditions such as the Christmas tree and Christmas carols.
As is often the case when setting out to learn something, I ended up learning lots of other interesting things along the way. So, here are a few that were new to me.
Christmas or Xmas
Christmas is also sometimes known as Xmas. Some people don’t think it is correct to call Christmas “Xmas” as that takes the “Christ” out of Christmas. But apparently, this is not quite accurate. In the Greek language and alphabet, the letter that looks like an X is the
The first postal service that ordinary people could use was started in 1840 when the first “Penny Post” public postal deliveries began. Before that, only very rich people could afford to send anything in the post. The new Post Office was able to offer a Penny stamp because new railways were being built. These could carry much more post than the horse and carriage that had been used before. Also, trains could go a lot faster.
In AD 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760AD, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write “Christmas carols”. However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, and so not understood by most people. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether.
This was changed by our patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, in 1223 when he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or “canticles” that told the story. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin, but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in. The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.
When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times (the 2nd half of the 1800s). During this time, many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular.
(At last! This is what started my curiosity)
- 1) an orange representing the world;
- 2) a red ribbon around it representing the blood of Christ;
- 3) dried fruits skewered on cocktail sticks pushed into the orange, representing the fruits of the earth and the four seasons; and
- 4) a lit candle pushed into the centre of the orange, representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world.
The base of the candle is commonly wrapped in tinfoil. This is purely functional.
The word Christingle comes from the German Christkind/Christkindl (Christ-child), and is originally a German custom. It has its origins in the Moravian Church, although the representation of the four seasons was a later addition. The Christkind is the traditional Christmas gift-bringer in regions of Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, parts of Germany and several other countries.
The idea of Christingles came from a Moravian Church in Germany in 1747. The minister, John de Watteville (a bishop, according to one source), gave children at the service a lighted candle with a red ribbon around it. This represented Jesus being the light of the world and the final prayer of that first service was “Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become.” Missionaries from the Moravian Church took the custom around the world with them. The first Christingle service held in the Church of England was in 1968. It was introduced by John Pensom of the Church of England Children’s Society. Because of this link, Christingle services in England usually raise money for children’s charities. In Moravian churches, the Christingle Service is usually held on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve.
Especially interesting is Christmas traditions in different cultures around the world.