Christingle is the name of a special Protestant Christmas Eve service popular in ENGLAND. The word also refers to the decorated candles distributed to children at this service. Christingle candles can be traced back to the Moravians, a group of Protestant Christians whose denomination was founded in the fifteenth century in what is now the Czech Republic (for more on the Moravians, see CHRISTMAS IN BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA; LOVEFEAST).
Moravians have long distributed beeswax candles, trimmed with red paper or ribbon, to worshipers at their Christmas Eve services. As the congregation sings hymns they hold up their flickering candles, symbolizing the Christ child or the Christ light. Moravians brought this custom with them to England, where the German CHRISTKINDEL (Christ child) became “Christingle.”
As the years went by, the design of the candle changed and acquired new symbolism. Children attending today’s Christingle services receive an orange into which a candle, festooned with red and white ribbons and paper, has been inserted. Raisins, nuts, candies, and other sweets, skewered onto toothpicks, surround the candle. While the candle still stands for Christ, the orange is said to represent the world. The sweets may symbolize the sweetness that comes from following Christ or the bounty of the earth, and the red and white paper represents the blood of Christ and its power to purify. (For a similar custom, see CHRISTMAS IN WALES.)
Christingle services and candles can also be found in Labrador, Canada, and other places where English Moravians sent missionar-ies. Instead of an orange, the people of Labrador insert their Christingle candles into an apple. In England the Christingle service and candles have spread beyond Moravian churches, becoming popular with other Protestants as well.