Christingle—England’s Citrus Candlestick

No one is really surprised to see candles in most Christian churches, especially in Europe. If, however, those candles are stuffed into oranges and speared with candy and ribbons, you may wonder what kind of ceremony you’ve stumbled into.

On the Third Day of Imported Christmas, we’re making our way to England, where these citrus-scented candlesticks, Christingles, are a beloved part of Christmas for children across the country.

The Christingle originated in Germany in 1747 as a candle with a red ribbon around it symbolizing Christ. The version you see in U.K. churches today didn’t evolve until 1968, when John Pensom used Christingles to raise money for the Children’s Society charity. Despite its haphazard appearance, the modern Christingle has significant religious symbolism:

  • The orange is the world
  • The red ribbon (or tape) is the love of Christ and the blood He shed
  • The candy (or fruit) is all of God’s creations around the world
  • The candle is the light of Christ, bringing hope in the darkness.

During the service, members of the congregation (especially children) each take a Christingle and take turns lighting them until they’ve spread the light of their candles throughout the room.

To bring the Christingle tradition a little closer to home, we decided to invite ourselves over to our friends’ house and borrow their children for some Christmas cheer. Even the littlest participants enjoyed building their Christingles (and eating the extra candy). And there is just something about holding fire that makes kids really excited about a spiritual thought.

Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:

Twelve Days of Imported Christmas

  1. The First Day: Christmas-Stuffed Turkey Piñata and Other Season-Starting Traditions
  2. The Second Day: Mari Lwyd—Wales’ Rhyming Horse Skull Puppet
  3. The Third Day: Christingle—England’s Citrus Candlestick
  4. The Fourth Day: Spanish Christmas Tapas
  5. The Fifth Day: Jólakötturinn—The Icelandic Christmas Cat
  6. The Sixth Day: Churchkhela—Georgia’s Christmas Candle Treat
  7. The Seventh Day: Christkindlmarkt—Germany’s Christmas Markets

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