If anyone doesn’t like that message, that’s their choice, but trying to pervert the season to Xmas, Winter Solstice, Santa Claus is Coming to Town or any other thing does not change the truth of what Christmas is about. God’s gift to mankind, in the form of a heavenly child placed in human care, until He became a man who would change the world forever is a message that seems to me would bring great joy to everyone.
I saw a message on Facebook from someone that was trying to say that the celebration of Christmas really wasn’t a religious holiday, as such, that the church just tried to take it over for their own selfish slant on things. ???Are you serious???
For this week’s column I wanted to write about something for Christmas that I’ve never written about before. I had given my students candy canes today at school and that kind of stuck in my head. What is the origin of the candy cane? Why is this particular candy so closely associated with Christmas?
Imagine my surprise when I started researching candy canes on the Internet and came up with two opposing views about candy canes and their connection to Christmas. One view resented the idea that anyone had made a Christian association of candy canes as symbolic of religious beliefs. The Christian groups were celebrating candy canes as a sweet treat full of symbolism for the church and the season.
The Christian version of the candy cane goes something like this. According to legend there was a candy maker who wanted to invent a candy that was a gift from him to honor Christ. He deliberately tried to incorporate as many symbols in the candy as possible to tell the story of Christmas. He used symbols from the birth, life and death of Christ.
First of all, he used a white hard candy because Christ is the rock of ages and the white represented the purity of Christ, His sinless nature and the virgin birth. The hardness was also supposed to represent the foundation of the church, built upon The Solid Rock, and the rock solid promises of the Word of God.
This hard candy was shaped so that it would resemble a “J” for Jesus. When it is turned upside down, it resembles a shepherd’s staff and Christ is known as The Good Shepherd. It also resembles a fishhook and Christ is known as The Fisher of Men.
Finally a red stripe was added to represent to make the candy bright and cheerful to attract children and remind them of the blood Christ shed for the sins of the world. Some say the three thinner red stripes that appear on some candy canes is for the stripes He received on our behalf when the Roman soldiers whipped Him, stripes for our healing.
One home schooling website added that the flavor of the candy cane is peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is in the mint family and was used in the Old Testament for purification and sacrifice. Jesus is the pure Lamb of God, come to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Still others believe that the candy cane, similar to the popular fish symbol was a secret code between Christians so that they could easily identify each other during a period of severe persecution of the church.
On the other end, Snopes says that candy canes didn’t even appear until the last part of the 17th century in Europe. There was no persecution of Christians at that time and Europe was predominantly Christian. There would have been no need for a secret symbol to recognize each other.
Snopes also says that the original candy canes were solid white and had no stripes of any kind. They had been around a few hundred years before stripes were added. Also, the popularity of the candy cane came about when they were used to help decorate Christmas trees. It also says that the sweet trees were used as positive reinforcement for those children who behaved well during church services.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think the origins of the candy cane are worth fighting over. And the naysayers might as well get over themselves. Candy canes remind people around the world of Christmas. Perhaps they didn’t start out with that particular purpose in mind, but they have come to be directly associated with the season and the celebration of Christ’s birth. They are clever, inexpensive, tasty treats enjoyed by children and adults (and great on the breath and often eaten to help settle an upset stomach). Whether you believe they were created by a candy maker in Indiana who wanted to honor Christ, or whether you think they were used to pacify children in church, they still taste great.
I love the symbolism that is reflected in every part of the candy cane. Whether it was originally planned that way or if someone pieced the picture together later on, it is still a lovely idea to think that every time we eat a candy cane, we are honoring the life of Christ.