Best-selling author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations, and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. Learn more about her books and short stories at her website.
My favorite Christmas tradition as a child was the Moravian Christmas Eve Candlelight and Love Feast service. I was raised in a small Protestant church with the oldest history starting way back in 1415 in Prague with Czech national hero Jan Hus. It’s a long story how we ended up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but that’s where I come in.
Each Christmas Eve, I looked forward to the special service of music, treats, and candles. After a few hymns and the reading of the Christmas story, the Love Feast began. The doors to the side of the pulpit would open and out would come the women dressed in crisp, white aprons, carrying baskets of buns, each decorated with a big ‘M’ standing for Moravian. After the buns were passed from hand to hand down the pews, the men came out carrying trays of white mugs filled with sweet coffee. It was the only time I was allowed to drink coffee as a child, plus we were eating in church. We listened to the choir sing and enjoyed our little communal meal.
Then my favorite part came toward the end when the beeswax candles decorated with red crepe paper at the bottom were carried out on trays and passed to the congregants. The lights in the sanctuary were dimmed and the only light was the big Moravian star hanging in the front. These stars began in a geometry class in one of the German settlements in Neisky in the mid-1800s. The one we hung at home had 26 points, but the star in our church was bigger and had many more. It was glorious.
I sat in breathless anticipation until I received my candle. I immediately put it up to my nose and took a deep breath of the best beeswax you’ve ever smelled. Once everyone had a candle, the server lit the minister’s candle, then that light went to other servers who lit the candles of the first person in each pew. The light was passed until each person’s candle was lit. The sanctuary grew lighter until it was filled with the golden glow of candlelight. Then we sang the final hymn and on the last stanza, we held our candles in the air.
Each year a child led the congregation in a hymn called “Morning Star.” The child sings the first two lines, then everyone sings it back. Everyone sings the chorus. One year, I was picked to sing. Mother bought me a beautiful green velvet dress with little red roses on the bodice. I remember holding up my candle and singing, “Morning Star, O cheering sight. Ere thou camst, how dark earth’s night.” My favorite line.
As an adult, I discovered the Moravians had taught mysticism in the 1740s. I was fascinated. The teachings echoed metaphysical ideas I’d studied in Vedanta and then in Western Mystery schools. After a good deal of research, I wrote a novel about it called The Star Family. This novel ends with a Christmas Eve Love Feast and Candlelight service.
The Star Family
A secret spiritual group, a recurring dream, a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed before it is too late
Jane Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re looking for.