Do you know the legend of the Christmas candy cane?
The holidays we celebrate would not be complete without the sweet tradition of candy.
Each holiday on the calendar seems to be linked to a particular kind of candy. For example, when Valentine’s Day nears, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates appear in stores. When Easter rolls around, small egg-shaped jelly beans abound.
Consider the candy associated with the Christmas season. Could it be more than a coincidence that divinity is served at the time we celebrate the divine birth of the Christ Child? Then there’s the candy cane that children are given after telling the man in the red suit and white beard what they want for Christmas.
Candy canes are hung on Christmas trees and put in stockings. In recent years, a legend has circulated about the origin of the candy cane. Though it may be only a legend, it is food for thought.
‘Tis said that a candy maker who was a Christian wanted to make a candy that would remind everyone of Christ, especially at Christmas. He decided the candy should include symbols of Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry and death.
So the candy maker began with a stick of pure, white hard candy. The white stick symbolized the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus. Its hardness represented the solid rock, a description of Christ given by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 10:4). For its taste, he chose a peppermint flavor, similar to hyssop – a plant of the mint family used in the Old Testament for purification and sacrifice.
Then the candy maker shaped the candy into a hard stick forming a “J” to stand for the first letter in the name of Jesus. It also forms the shape of a fish hook to represent Jesus’ ministry when He said to His disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
When the curve is turned upward, the candy cane looks like a shepherd’s staff. The staff reminds us of Jesus’ words recorded by John, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives this life for the sheep” (John 10:11). We need a “Good Shepherd” because, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
The cane was quite plain, so the candy maker stained it with three thin red stripes as a symbol of the stripes on Jesus’ back from the beating He received from the Roman soldiers. A wider stripe signifies the blood Christ shed on the Cross when He died for our sins.
The next time you unwrap one of those sweet traditions, remember the legend of the candy cane. The writer of Psalms has said, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8) Think on the words of an old hymn, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” Always remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.