When children suffer
Jesus spreads his loving arms –
“Let them come to me”
A Christingle is a symbolic object, related to the pomander, used in the advent services of many Christian denominations. A Christingle consists of:
– an orange, which represents the earth;
– a red ribbon around it representing the blood of Christ;
– dried fruits skewered on cocktail sticks pushed into the orange, representing the fruits of the earth and the four seasons; and
– a lit candle pushed into the centre of the orange, representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world.
The word “Christingle” comes from the German Christkindl, and Christingle is originally a German custom and has its origins in the Moravian Church, although the representation of the four seasons was a later addition. At Christmas 1747 in Germany, Bishop Johannes de Watteville in Marienborn thought about how he could explain the love of the Jesus the Christ child (Christkindl in German) and what Christmas really means to the children in the church. He decided to make a simple symbol to express the message of Christmas in a fresh and lively way. Pastor Johannes de Watteville gave each child a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon, with a prayer that said “Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these dear children’s hearts”.
In 1968, John Pensom of The Children’s Society adapted and introduced Christingle services to the Church of England, where the custom spread quickly, and now is also sometimes held in other denominations. It is celebrated sometime around Christmas. Various hymns about Christingle include: The Christingle begins with an orange, We haven’t come far, It’s rounded like an orange (sung to the tune of “The Holly and the Ivy”), and When the frost turns the berries red.
The story of the Christingle is that there were three children, who were very poor, but wanted to give a gift to Jesus, like the other families at church were doing. The only nice thing they had was an orange, so they decided to give him that. The top was going slightly green, so the eldest cut it out and put a candle in the hole. They thought it looked dull, so the youngest girl took her best red ribbon from her hair and attached it round the middle with toothpicks. The middle child had the idea to put a few pieces of dried fruit on the ends of the sticks. They took it to the church for the Christmas mass, and whereas the other children sneered at their meagre gift, the priest took their gift and showed it as an example of true understanding of the meaning of Christmas.