What do you think of when you picture Christmas? I hope your images are happy ones, maybe filled with faces of friends and family. Possibly there is a stocking on the end of a bed filled with presents chosen specially for you. Maybe there are smells of food and the sparkle of decorations.
Not everyone has that privilege.
200,000 10 to 17-year-olds are experiencing emotional neglect on a regular basis in the UK. 11 per cent of those same children do not even have their own bed to hang a stocking on. 20 per cent turned to a food bank in the last five years. Their Christmas dinner would look very different. 21 per cent have also been homeless in the last five years. These issues don’t stop over Christmas. In fact the consumer pressure of society can only amplify them.
At The Children’s Society, we support children with huge issues in their daily lives. Some young people may be living in poverty, missing from home, in care, just about to leave the care system or living with adults dealing with substance abuse. They may be at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation. For example, a key issue at the moment is County Lines, where young people are groomed and made to feel special in order to traffic drugs around the country.
We are so grateful to churches up and down the country that hold Christingle services each year. They help us to continue our vital work with young people like these.
Beginning in Lincoln cathedral back in 1968, churches, cathedrals and schools have come together in towns and villages to create something special with the help of an orange, a candle, sweets and a red ribbon – each element of a Christingle has a special meaning and helps to tell the Christian story.
In 2003 a landmark one million people took part in a Christingle service and we now know that attending a Christingle service is one of the main reasons people will attend a church service in the Advent and Christmas seasons. We’re expecting over 7,000 Christingle services to take place this year.
With this year being the 50th year, we wanted to celebrate with something big. So we have collaborated with Louise Drewett from The Royal Academy of Music and poet Clare Shaw to create an original piece of choral music that can be performed as part of services. We hope the song ‘Light a Candle’ will be a chance for young people to raise their voices in support of their peers.
Too many young people will wake up on Christmas morning feeling alone and unable to cope. This year, through our 50th anniversary Christingle campaign we want to change that.
You can help us make it special by singing ‘Light a Candle’ at your Christingle celebration. With this beautiful anniversary song, you can help a child to feel safe for the first time this Christmas. For a young person who has never experienced the joy of Christmas, your Christingle collection will make a real difference by giving them someone to turn to at last.