The Church of St Peter and St Paul


OrangeA generous present from the Moravians to the Churches

It is the Moravians whom we have to thank for bringing us the Christingle. Especially one Moravi-an clergyman: John de Watteville.

On 20th December, 1747, John de Watteville was taking a children’s service in his Moravian church in Marienborn, Germany. He led the children in some hymns, and read out verses which the chil-dren themselves had written to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Then he explained to the children that true happiness only comes through knowing Je-sus. Jesus, said John de Watteville, “has kindled in each little heart a flame which keeps burning to their joy and our happiness”.

John de Watteville then went on to illustrate that ‘flame’. He gave each child a little lighted wax candle, tied around with a red ribbon. He ended his service with a little prayer: “Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become”.

The visual aid was a great success with the children; for the Marienborn Diary for that day concludes: “hereupon the children went full of joy with their lighted candles to their rooms and so went glad and happy to bed”.

The candle and red ribbon were remembered the following year, and the following after that.... The years came and went, and as the Moravians began to travel beyond Germany, so they took the custom with them: to Labrador, to Pennsylvania, to Tibet and Suriname, to the Caribbean and South Africa. In each country the Christians adapted it for their own use. No one knows for certain when the word ‘Christingle’ was first used with regard to the custom. No one even knows where the word ‘Christingle’ comes from. Some people say it is from the old Saxon word ‘ingle’ (fire), meaning ‘Christ-fire or light’. Another theory is that it derives from the German ‘engel’ (angel), meaning ‘Christ-angel’.

In any event, the symbolism of Christingle gradually developed, until to-day the Moravians in the British Province use an orange, representing the world, with a lighted candle to represent Christ, the Light of the World.