Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Oranges and Lemons Service 2016

Posted on by royvickery |

069In 1920 the then Rector of St Clement Danes, one of the two ‘island’ churches in the Strand, London, introduced an Oranges and Lemons service for local children.  This was inspired by the nursery rhyme or party game ‘Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement’s ….’  It’s uncertain if St Clement Danes is the church referred to in the rhyme, but the Rector assumed it was.

Oranges (Citrus sinensis) and lemons (C. limon) were distributed to the children present and the service continued each year until the Rector’s death in 1941, thereafter it ‘became sporadic’.  In 1959 it was revived and it has since continued as an annual event.

In its present form the service is a semi-private occasion restricted to the children of St Clement Danes Church of England Primary School and their families.

In 2016 the service took place on 17 March, starting at 1.30 p.m. and lasting for a little over an hour.  After the clergy, the ‘Lord Mayor [of Westminster] Locum Tenens’ and invited 084guests had processed to their places Year 6 pupils played the Oranges and Lemons tune on handbells, the Rector welcomed those present, and two verses of the National Anthem were sung.  Although described as a ‘service’ the religious content was not great, most of the time being filled by a series of performances by the schoolchildren, starting with Oranges and Lemons being performed by the Nursery and Reception classes.  The theme for the event was ‘Celebrating Britain’.  All the performances were of a consistently high standard.

After the closing blessing most of the guests left, followed by the children, each of whom was presented with an orange and a lemon in the church’s courtyard.

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