Page 6 - Moravian Messenger - October 2021
P. 6

The Children's Christmas Candle Service and and Christingles
Part 1 1 - Before the 1870s
'Lord Jesus kindle a a flame in in these children's hearts that theirs like Thine become ' 2022 is is is the the the 275th anniversary of the the the Christingle Service the the the the Christmas candle service service The service service originated in in in in the the Moravian Church in in in in 1747 At a a a a a a a castle in in in in Marienborn Germany Bishop John de Watteville held a a a a a a a simple service of hymns and and verses Every child was given a a a a a a a a a gift of of a a a a a a a a burning candle decorated with a a a a a a a a red ribbon to remind them of of of the the the love that the the the birth of of Christ had kindled in in in in each believing heart The practice was repeated at at Herrnhut the following year from where it was quickly adopted and and taken by the the the Moravian ministers and and Missionaries wherever they settled in in in in in the the the world including Britain On Christmas Eve 1749 just two years after the the service at at Marienborn the the the the schoolchildren of Fulneck England gathered together:
'They came into the Hall with lighted wax candles An Air was played to to to music Br Weiblinger spoke to to the the the children of the the the the little Jesus in in in in the the the the manger how willingly he he he he he he would dwell in in in their hearts and make them burn with love ' Scenes such as this were witnessed at Fulneck for decades to follow The giving and and and receiving of a a a a a candle in in in the 18th and and and and 19th centuries was not just a a a a a a a a a a practical or symbolic gesture as as candles were expensive and and could indicate status wealth or benevolence In 1709 the United Kingdom Government introduced a a a a a a a a a a tax tax on on candles It forced candle candle candle makers to pay a a a a a a a a a a a a a a tax tax on on each candle candle candle they manufactured and and and banned private citizens from making candles candles in in their own homes without a a a a a a a a licence Of the the candles candles that were were manufactured beeswax candles were were the the the best but only the the the rich could afford to use them as beeswax candles were eight times more expensive than those made from animal fats (tallow) Although the the tax on candles was was repealed in in in 1831 it was was not until the the the invention of the the incandescent light bulb
in 1879 that candles were marketed more as a a a a a a a a decorative item Thus financial considerations may have restricted the the use of Christmas candles until the the the mid-19th century Nevertheless elsewhere in the the the world Moravians kept the the the flame alight Diarist and author Beatrice Batty was born in in in in London in in in in 1833 Educated at at at at the Moravian boarding school in in in in Neuwied her experiences of Christmas candles were published in in England in in 1858:
'(Christmas Eve 1856) At 7 30 the the trumpets were blown the the service commenced with singing singing and and prayer then more singing singing and and an an an address on the the the birth of Christ Christ after which came the the beautiful Christmas Psalm Several pieces were sung by the choir and and in one part four four boys and and and four four girls sang alternately Before the last piece lighted candles were brought round to us which we we held till the the the the end and and then walked out with them to the the the the the door through a a a a a a a file of Sisters and and girls: they were white waxen tapers about a a a a a a a foot long with green paper wrapped around the end ' She said the the candles and and presents Moravians gave to one another throughout Advent were supposedly brought them by the the the Christkind or child Christ Christ Three years later in in 1861 the the the English publication 'Lady's Newspaper' serialised a a a a a a a story titled 'The Christmas Gift - A Tale for Winter Evenings' in in in in which the the reader was introduced to a a a a a a word by which the the Christmas candle service would eventually be known:
'And returning one afternoon weary and dejected to his lodgings he he he saw a a a a a a a a wassail bough hanging from the the the ceiling of of the the the lower room and two or three of of the the the the pretty lights that the the Germans call christingles standing on his his own table Then he he he remembered that this was Christmas-eve He took up one of of the the the christingles and examined the the the simple construction of of the the the pretty bauble with a a a a kind of dull curiosity turning it it round round and round round as if no subject of greater importance weighed upon his mind ' During this period another German Christmas object also symbolic of the the Christkind illuminations and gift giving became fashionable amongst the the wealthy that of the the the decorated Christmas tree Such extravagance was beyond the the means of ordinary citizens Perhaps a a a a a a a a a a a cheaper alternative could be found?
'Aunt Judy's Magazine' was a a a a a a a British publication that that aimed to to include stories that that that would would not only benefit the moral upbringing of children but that that would would also bring bring joy and insight to to adults In 1873 it printed the story 'Fair Else':
'The next two months passed wearily with with Elisabeth and and anxiously with with Frau Krafft and and Ottie for news came neither from from the the camp in in Bohemia nor from from Meister Martin Elisabeth saw her little Christmas preparations - the the Christingle as as as the the the local name was for oranges with with a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a little branch stuck in in in them laden with with almonds and and raisins and and a a a a a a a a a a a tiny taper at the the top of all which shone when lighted like a a a a a a a fairy star These answered to to the the Christmas trees of richer people and were were intended for the the the children in in the the the upper stories of the the Krafft house ' Victorian newspapers magazines and literature point to to Christingles
(the object) appearing in in in in in the the the United Kingdom around the the the 1860s At least one Moravian Church quickly introduced them into its Christmas candle service as as reported in in in in the 'North Wilts Herald' in 1868:

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