To St Thomas the Apostle Parish Church (South Wigston with Glen Parva) this Christmas Eve for Christingle, held in aid of the Children's Society. Many of those attending bring a Christmas present for a deprived child, suitably wrapped, with appropriate gender and age clearly marked on it. these toys will be collected and distributed to children here or abroad by the Salvation Army.
Christingle (which means "Christ's Light") is a tradition dating back some 300 years ago to what is now the Czech Republic. The custom of giving out lighted candles in these services originates from the Moravian Church in Germany in 1747 but they weren’t introduced to the Anglican Church in England until 1968. Christingle can be celebrated any time from Advent in December till up to three weeks after Christmas in January. Christingle celebrations take place in schools, youth groups and churches, with more than half a million kids taking part each year all over the country.
During the singing of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" we are all invited to come to the front of the church and receive a Christingle. We filter down the central aisle, then return to our seats via the two side aisles.The Christingle consists of an orange with a candle protruding from the top of it, a red ribbon around the middle and sweets on cocktail sticks (jelly babies today). Each part of a Christingle stands for something:
- Orange – the world
- Candle – Jesus, light of the world
- Red ribbon – the blood of Jesus, shed for the people of the world
- Cocktail sticks and sweets – the seasons and all the good things in our world
When everyone has their Christingle, the lights are put out and we sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" with the church lit only by the candles in our oranges (as seen in the photo above). The Vicar gives the blessing then, on the count of three, we blow out our candles and the Christmas tree lights come on.