Saturday, December 23, 2006

Church learns tradition of Moravian candle craft

Dec. 23, 2006
By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

For 250 consecutive years candles have been part of Moravian Christmas Eve services in America.
Temple Brethren Church will continue the Czech tradition this year. The service, 'Light the Way,' at 2202 Bird Creek Drive is set for 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24.
To prepare for the candle lighting ritual, the Rev. Bill Rinderknecht taught about 40 congregation members how to make the traditional Moravian candles on Sunday, Dec. 17.
Supplies needed include bee's wax candles, flame-retardant red paper, scissors, scotch tape and Styrofoam.
'You use bee's wax because it's the purest form of wax known,' Rinderknecht said. 'Since it was developed as a children's item, the pureness is important because it represents the pureness of Christ.'
To make the red frill that adorns each candle, take a piece of the red flame-retardant paper and fold it in half. Then starting at the folded end, cut 1/4-3/8 inch strips leaving about a 1/2 inch at the top.
'The red frill is the blood of Christ,' Rinderknecht explained.
After the frills are cut, they can be taped on the candle in a swirling fashion.
Traditionally, the Moravian church would present the completed candles in a wooden candle display case. But instead the Rev. Rinderknecht suggests the use of Styrofoam blocks.
'So all you have to do at the end is poke the candles in the Styrofoam and they stand beautifully and well supported,' Rinderknecht said. 'It's a bit easier. And it's improvisation.'
The final product is a tray of red-frilled candles that will be lit Christmas Eve.
'The light of the candle represents the light of God in the heart of every child, everyone,' Rinderknecht said.  

The history
The Moravian church has its origin in Bohemia and Moravia, the area of the present-day Czech Republic. In the middle of the ninth century, these countries converted to Christianity through the influence of Greek Orthodox missionaries. John Hus (1369-1415) is an important figure in the framework of the Czech religion.
According to a newsletter published by the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, the Moravian candle lighting tradition first began in Europe in 1747 in the Moravian community of Marienborn, Germany.
In the year 1747 J o h a n n e s v o n Watteville conducted a Christmas Eve service for the children that incorporated the use of candles tied with small red ribbons.
The newsletter said the candles were used to illustrate the lesson of Christ's sacrifice and crucifixion, which had ignited 'the blood-red flame of love in every heart, which would burn forever to His joy and our salvation.'
The Christmas candle lighting tradition followed the Czechs as they migrated to America in the mid 1700s. And it's still in common practice today.

On the Web
To learn more about the history and traditions of the Moravian church, visit www.moravianchurcharchives.org and www.moravian.org.

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