THOUSANDS of churches are this month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UK Christingle service.
In preparation, tens of thousands of candles and hundreds of thousands of toothpicks will be pushed into decorated oranges and distributed to children to symbolise Jesus as the light of the world. Collections taken at Christingle services go to the Church of England’s Children’s Society, which supports vulnerable children and young people across the UK.
The Church Times, on 8 November 1968, describes the first ever Christingle service in the UK, at Lincoln Cathedral
The tradition of Christingles began in the Moravian Church in 18th-century Germany, and was occasionally copied elsewhere. On 8 November 1968, the Church Times carried a short note advertising the first ever UK Christingle service, to be held in Lincoln Cathedral on 7 December.
After the success of that first service, seven Christingles were held the following year, and 18 the next. Now, more than 6000 Christingle events are thought to take place every year in churches and schools across the country.
Lincoln Cathedral will repeat its Christingle service today, exactly 50 years on from the first event. A special anniversary service was due to be held at Salisbury Cathedral yesterday, attended by the Duchess of Gloucester.
The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about his own difficult childhood experiences in a Christingle-themed episode of Songs of Praise this week. “I remember growing up and being very alone at Christmas,” he told the presenter Josie d’Arby, as they decorated a “Christingle cake” together.
Archbishop Welby, whose father had serious alcohol problems, described a Christmas Day on which his father never emerged from his bed, when there was no food in the house. He said that he wished that someone had known about his situation. “Where you ignore the most vulnerable people, you’re ignoring Jesus.”
The Children’s Society has marked earlier Christingle anniversaries. On the 21st anniversary, in 1989, it organised a “Christingle relay”: flames were passed on from orange to orange across the country, starting with a special giant Christingle.
This year, the charity has commissioned an original song in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Music, “Light a Candle” (News, 26 October), which congregations are encouraged to include in their services.
The Children’s Society’s chief executive, Matthew Reed said: “The iconic fund-raising tradition is a lifeline for the charity, and we’re enormously grateful to all our supporters for helping us to work with more than a million children over the last 50 years.”