Moravian Customs

 

Advent Star

red advent star

Moravian Advent Star

The first Christmas decoration to go up in Moravian homes and Churches is the Moravian Advent Star, sometimes called the Herrnhut Star.

This star had its origins in a Moravian boarding school in Niesky, Germany in the 1850’s. It started as a lesson in geometry and became a craft in the school. The children would make their stars in school for decorations there and also take them home to their families. The first stars were white and red, white for purity and red for the blood of Jesus Christ.

Moravian stars in German Moravian School

It was first manufactured in 1897 by Pieter Verbeeck who had attended the school in Niesky. He had a paper and music store in Herrnhut and began to make the stars for sale from his home and his son, Harry founded the Herrnhut star factory in 1925. The way the stars were made, of individual cones with square and triangular bases, meant that they were easy to pack and post. This meant that the tradition of the Moravian Advent Stars spread to Moravian Churches across the world. These stars are now also a common sight in Christmas markets across Germany and many folk not connected with the Church also hang the Moravian stars up in their homes as an integral part of their Christmas decorations.

Advent star in a home

The star, symbolising the star that led the Wise Men to Jesus is usually put up on Advent Sunday, and taken down on 6th January, Epiphany, the date when traditionally we celebrate the Wise Men getting to Bethlehem. In some Churches in Germany the Advent Star is left up until the 2nd February to mark Candlemas, when Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms and declared the child to be a light for the revelation to the Gentiles.

The star also reminds us of the God we worship who created the heavens and the glory of the stars in the sky.

Moravian stars can be ordered from our Church Office on 02088833409 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The website of the Moravian Star Factory in Herrnhut can be visited using this link
Herrnhuter Sterne (herrnhuter-sterne.de)

advent star at church

Hosanna Anthem

hosanna anthem2

Hosanna Anthem

The Hosanna Anthem is traditionally sung in Moravian Churches on Advent Sunday and Palm Sunday. It was originally composed in 1765 by Christian Gregor to be sung antiphonally by adults and children with the adults singing first and the children repeating. Now it is set for boys or men to start and for the girls or women to respond. It is sung through twice.

Music is an important part of life in a Moravian congregation and this anthem is greatly loved by members of the Church across the world. To sing the Hosanna Anthem in a full Church is a wonderful experience.

Christian Gregor was born in Silesia on January 1st 1723. In 1740 he went to Herrnhut to join the Church there. He was the leader of music at Hernhaag in 1748 and was ordained a deacon in 1756, and in 1789 he was consecrated a Bishop. He made visitations to congregations in Europe, North America and Russia and died in Berthlesdorf in 1801.

Here is the Hosanna Anthem sung by the Moravian Singers, Musical Director Maureen Colbert.

 

Christingle

Moravian Christingle

This Moravian Christmas celebration has been widely adopted by churches of other denominations and we receive many enquiries as to its origin and meaning.

The idea of the Christingle began in the Moravian congregation of Marienborn, Germany, on 20th December, 1747. At a children’s service, hymns were sung and the minister, John de Watteville, read verses which the children had written to celebrate the birth of Jesus. He then explained to the children the happiness that had come to people through Jesus, “who has kindled in each little heart a flame which keeps burning to their joy and our happiness”. To make the point even clearer, each child then received a little lighted wax candle, tied round with a red ribbon. The minister ended the service with this prayer, “Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become”. The Marienborn Diary concludes, “hereupon the children went full of joy with their lighted candles to their rooms and so went glad and happy to bed”.

The Moravian Church took the custom of this service with them to Labrador and Pennsylvania, to Tibet and Suriname, to the Caribbean and South Africa, and people in each part of the world adapted it for their own use.

No one knows for certain when the word “Christingle” was first used or from what it is derived. Various suggestions have been made. One is that it comes from the old Saxon word “ingle” (fire), meaning “Christ-fire or light”. Another is that it derives from the German “engel” (angel), meaning “Christ-angel”, or it may derive from the German “kindle” (child), meaning “Christ-child”.

The symbolism gradually developed, and today in the Moravian Church in the British Province, the Christingle consists of an orange, representing the world, with a lighted candle to represent Christ, the Light of the World. Nuts, raisins and sweets on cocktail sticks around the candle represent God’s bounty and goodness in providing the fruits of the earth. Red paper, forming a frill around the base of the candle, reminds us of the blood of Christ shed for all people on the cross at Calvary.

In Moravian churches, the Christingle Service is usually held on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve. Essentially, it is a children’s service, which reminds us that the Christ-child lies at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. The service usually includes the traditional Moravian carol:-

Morning Star, O cheering sight!
Ere thou cam’st how dark earth’s night!
Jesus mine,
In me shine;
Fill my heart with light divine.

Morning star, thy glory bright
Far excels the sun’s clear light:
Jesus be
Constantly,
More than thousand suns to me.

Thy glad beams, thou morning star,
Cheer the nations near and far;
Thee we own
Lord alone,
Man’s great Saviour, God’s dear Son.

Morning star, my soul’s true light,
Tarry not, dispel my night;
Jesus mine,
In me shine;
Fill my heart with the light divine.

At the climax of the service every child receives the gift of a Christingle, reminding us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son……” (John 3:16). In this wonderful moment, in the darkened church, the visual symbol of the Christingle expresses the truth that in the darkness of the world there shines a great light.

We are glad that the Moravian Church has been able to make this contribution to the wider Christian world and we hope that this brief explanation may help to deepen and enrich the understanding of the Christingle Service, wherever it is held.

Easter

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Holy Week

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Singstund

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