According to the legend of the candy cane, this candy was first created back in the 18th century. At that time, in certain areas of Europe, there was said to be a ban on public displays of Christianity. Christians were oppressed and no Bibles or crosses could be owned at the time. One man found this oppression distressing and wished he could share the love of Jesus and the joy of Christmas with the rest of the world. When Christmas came around, children didn’t get to see nativity scenes or enjoy learning about the truth of Christmas. As a candy maker, this man prayed to find a way that he could offer local children a Christmas gift that would allow him to communicate the real message of Christmas.
- His prayer led to an idea — The Candy Cane.
• The Shepherd’s Staff: He chose to make the candy cane in the shape of a shepherd’s staff. After all, Jesus is the shepherd to his followers and the Bible notes that the “sheep” would hear His voice and follow him (Psalm 23:1, John 10:11, John 10:27-30, Isaiah 40:11).
• The Letter J for Jesus: Not only was the candy cane in the shape of a staff, but when held upside down, it formed a “J,” which stood for Jesus (Luke 1:31, Matthew 1:21).
• He is A Rock: The candy maker chose hard candy for the candy cane, which was done to remind children that Jesus was our “rock,” dependable and strong (Psalm 31:3).
• By His Stripes: Wide red stripes were added to the candy cane, representative of the crucifixion and the blood Jesus shed for our sins.
• Red – His Shed Blood: Through his blood, we are given salvation and life (Revelation 1:5, John 3:16, Luke 22:20).
• White – Purification from Sin: There are also white stripes on the candy cane, which represents the holiness, and purity of Jesus, who was sinless (I John 1:7).
• Sweet Fragrance of Christ: Peppermint was the flavor that the candy maker chose for the candy cane. Peppermint was very similar to hyssop, which was used for sacrifice and purification in the Old Testament, reminding us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It also reminds us of the spices brought by the Wise Men when they came to visit Jesus (Psalm 51:7, John 10:29, Matthew 2:11).
• Broken For Us: Of course, when the candy cane is eaten, it is often broken, which the candy maker meant as a reminder that when Jesus was crucified, his body was broken (I Cor. 11:24).
• Love of Christ: The candy cane was also made to be given as a gift, representing the love of Jesus when he gave us the gift of salvation.
Although no one is quite sure if the legend of the candy cane is really true, the beauty of the legend is such a reminder of God’s love for us around Christmas. In this legend, it was a way that the candy maker could tell the children the story of Christmas and still today, we have candy canes as a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
Another Take On The Legend
It is widely believed that the candy, which earlier was straight as a stick, was given its distinctive J-shape by a German choirmaster. It is said that during service one evening, the children were being very loud and noisy, creating quite a ruckus and not paying any attention to the choirmaster. To keep them quiet and still for the nativity ceremony, he gave them a long, white, sugar candy stick. Since giving chocolates and candies at church was considered sacrilegious, he bent these sticks at one end to make them look like a shepherd’s cane and thus, attached a religious significance to them. In Christianity, Jesus is regarded as the Good Shepherd and so, the staff is considered to be a sacred symbol. The Staff also represents the shepherds who came to visit the infant Jesus.
The candy cane became popular when, in 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, who liked candy canes a lot, decided to string them on his Christmas tree as decorations. The idea soon caught up became quite a fashion in no time. By 1900, candy canes, which were earlier only white, came in red stripes, and with peppermint and cinnamon flavoring. Of course, now it’s a popular tradition everywhere.
The candy canes became a much sought-after Christmas-decoration item as the ‘hook’ in the candy made it easier to hang them on the Yule trees, and the unique shape made it an eye-catching attraction.
Traditionally, the only symbolism that was associated with the candy was that of the shepherd’s staff. But now, there is a modern allegorical interpretation of the candy cane. It is said that since the candy cane, when inverted, becomes J-shaped, it is a direct representation of Jesus Christ. The white color of the candy denotes the purity of Christ while the stripes represent His sacrifice and the whipping he received at the hands of the Romans, the color red symbolizing his blood. It is believed that even the peppermint flavor of the candy is so because it is similar to hyssop which, according to the Old Testament, symbolizes purification and sacrifice.
A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy: white to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the Foundation of the Church and firmness of the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who like all sheep have gone astray. Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes for the blood shed by Christ on the cross. So that we could have the promise of eternal life.
Over time the humble candy became known as the Candy Cane. It became more noticeable as a decoration to hang on the tree seen at Christmas time. But the TRUE meaning is still there for all those who “Have eyes to see and ears to hear.” We pray that this symbol will again be used to witness to the wonder of Jesus and His great love that came down at Christmas.
Whatever the truth may be, the fact remains is that the simple, modern-day Candy Cane is and can continue to be a reminder of the real reason we celebrate this time of year!