Candy Canes; a stick of peppermint candy with a curved hook on top. My kids love these candies at this time of year. They're a familiar Christmas symbol, but have you ever thought about their origin?
There's no mistaking the red and white striped candy cane; a candy that appears only during this holiday season. I never thought much of it until a few years back when I read something about the candy cane that gave me a different perspective.
Jesus is the Reason for the Season
Now, each time I give my kids a candy cane I say, "Turn it upside down and it makes the letter "J" and whose birth do we celebrate during Christmas?" They reply, "Jesus."
I continue, "Flip it right side up and it's a shepherd's hook, and who do we call "the Good Shepherd?" They reply, "Jesus."
"The red stands for the blood he shed; the life he gave for us. The white stand for his purity and how Jesus washed our sins away when he died for us on the cross."
Legend Has It
These candies are sprinkled throughout our decorations, confections and traditions. They are handed out by Santas at malls, parades and special appearances. Candy canes bring back magical memories of childhood Christmases. They are simple and complex, young and old, traditional and hip all at one time.
Legend tells us that in 1672, the Choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany asked a local candy maker for sweet candy sticks to give the children during the living crèche performance on Christmas Eve. The Choirmaster wanted the children to be quiet and thought a stick of hard candy would do the trick. Legend goes on to say that he asked the candy maker to put the crook on the top of the candy stick to link it to the Christmas service, being reminiscent of the Shepherds who traveled to Bethlehem to see the Christ child, and justify handing out candy during mass.
Some of this may be truth; some could be folklore; either way, the candy cane has been around a long time. A recipe for this candy first appeared in 1844, and its first mention in literature was in 1866.
So, next time you eat a candy cane or hand one to your child think about all the tradition and history and symbolic meanings that this simply candy holds in its shepherd's hook. Over and out...