08 December 2008
An estimated 1.1 million people will take part in Christingle
services at Church of England churches, cathedrals and schools this
Christmas - following a rise of 50 per cent in the last three
years. The number of children and adults attending Christingle
celebrations has risen by half since 2004, when three quarters of a
million people took part in the services.
Forty years since The Children's
Society introduced the special service to the Church of
England, the two organisations are expecting that anniversary
services will draw in more people than ever.
The projections come as previously unreported figures from the
Church of England suggest that four in ten parents attend church
over the Christmas period, and that a third of parents visit a
church or place of worship at some point during the year through an
event linked to their child's school*.
The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and Chair of The
Children's Society, comments: "Christingle is a much-loved
celebration that has become a treasured part of many families'
Christmas traditions. These services powerfully communicate the
simple but life-changing message of Christmas, proclaiming Christ
as the Light of the World.
"The side-effect of producing valuable funds for the amazing
work of The Children's Society is a very welcome one, given added
poignancy as we look upon the infant Jesus and consider the plight
of vulnerable children in the UK today."
Christingle was established by the Moravian Church in 1747 as a
symbol of Christ's light and love, and was introduced by The
Children's Society to The Church of England in 1968. The tradition
grew due to churches' enthusiasm for the simple, powerful symbolism
of the Christingle as a way of expressing the Christian message,
and the opportunity it gives to encourage donations towards the
worthwhile cause of helping make childhood better for all children
in the UK.
At the climax of the Christingle service, lights in the church
or other venue are dimmed and replaced with the illumination of
candlelight, gradually spreading between the candles which crown
the Christingles, symbolising Jesus as the Light of the World. The
'body' of the Christingle is formed by an orange representing the
world, trimmed with a red ribbon indicating the blood of Christ,
and four cocktail sticks bearing dried fruit or sweets to signify
the fruits of the four seasons. Most Christingle celebrations take
the form of a church service but they can also take place at
schools or other community venues.
It is thought that at least 6,000 Christingle celebrations now
take place each year, including:
- St Mary the Virgin, Kettering, where one of
the trees at the church's annual Christmas Tree Festival is
decorated with orange and purple baubles to represent Christingles
and The Children's Society;
- St Johns, Lodge Causeway, Bristol, where
around 200 children and adults will fill the church on Saturday, 14
December, to throw their collections for disadvantaged children
into an old tin bath and take part in the service, which is
followed by tea and mince pies;
- A joint Christingle/Nativity service on Sunday, 21 December, at
All Hallows, Allerton, Merseyside follows 'A
celebration of the real Christmas', held at the beginning of Advent
with displays of Nativity sets from around the world, prayer
stations, quiet space and storytelling;
- Probably the largest Christingle celebration in the country
takes place at Westminster Abbey each year, where
more than 800 children from schools around London join together to
encircle the nave with their Christingles, sing carols and hear
readings from some of the schools represented.
* Opinion Research Business (ORB) surveyed 1002 adults aged 18
and over in Great Britain by telephone poll between September 26th
and 27th, 2007. The research was initially published in January
2008 and is available here
The Children's Society is a leading children's charity committed
to making childhood better for all children in the UK.To that end
it provides vital help and understanding for those children who
face the greatest danger or disadvantage; children who are
unable to find the support they need anywhere else. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk.