Christingle Celebration

The traditional Christingle

Sylvia Milburn, who notes that she’s no longer responsible for the service now, having passed that lovely duty on to Craig Atkinson, Alison Fothergill and Helen Forbes, sends this enchanting piece on the Christingle service, which will be held today, the 1st of December, Advent Sunday at 3pm in St. Cuthbert’s church.

Advent!   The  beginning of Christmas preparations when we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. Many say that the Christingle Celebration each year at St. Cuthbert’s Church is, for them, the beginning of Christmas.

The first Christingle service was held in the Moravian Church in Germany in 1747 when the children were simply given a candle with a red ribbon round it as a symbol of the happiness brought through Jesus.

The origin of the word “Christingle” may come from “Christkindt” meaning Christ Child.  “Ingle” meaning fire or light gives us the word “Christingle ” which means “Christ Light.”

It was in 1968 in England that The Children’s Society adopted the idea to celebrate Jesus “The Light of the World.”  Since then, Christingle Celebrations have become a popular service throughout the country as a symbol to tell us about the love of God for everyone.

The orange represents the world.  The cocktail sticks are the seasons and the fruits and sweets tell us of all God’s gifts to us.  Round the orange is a red ribbon that reminds us of how Jesus died for us all. And in the middle is a lighted candle showing us that Jesus is the Light of the World and is always with us, turning darkness into light.

As well as celebrating the imminent birth of Jesus, the Christingle service enables the Society to raise money to change the lives of so many children and their families who are in need; a collection is taken after the service for the Children’s Society.

In Allendale we have had Christingle celebrations since the late 1980s; the  first service was organised by Pat Snowdon. From that small gathering the Celebration has become a real community effort with schools and organisations taking part, such as the Scout Group, who proudly present their flags as the service begins. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles — all the family, coming along to see what the children have prepared for them to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s always good to see those who have taken part years ago return with their own children.

So many people help out in so many ways. For example, those who make the 150 Christingles with (soft!) donated sweets carefully placed on the cocktail sticks that are planted in the oranges, donated by Allendale Co-op, and finally insert the candle ready for lighting.

Then, in the service, there are the stewards standing by with wet towels in case of accidents when all the children hold their lighted candles. Fortunately, the towels haven’t been needed.  Yet! But it’s always good to have safety measures in hand.  In the early years the children used to process round the church, but as the numbers increased, safety concerns were re-assessed and now they stay in their seats.

Musicians and teachers support the children in their parts  in the service, and the congregation enjoy seeing the various groups celebrate in their own particular way.

Of course one of the highlights of the service is the Pre -School tots singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Some of them are so tiny waving their stars as they sing, as well as looking around to see their family.

Obviously it’s quite a noisy service, but towards the end, when the candles are all lit a silence descends, and seeing the glowing faces of the children in candlelight singing “Away in a manger” is always a special, magical moment. Afterwards, when the candles have been blown out we all sing “Walk in the Light”  a rousing hymn to fill us all with the  joy of Christmas.

After the service we all congregate in the hall where some more helpers serve tea and mince pies and and some of the sweets on the oranges are quickly eaten, and then the Christingle  Celebration is over for another year.

I hope this great community effort will continue for many years– let’s hope for ever.”

Thanks Sylvia, it is indeed a lovely family service!

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