I love Christmas traditions. I enjoy all the different kinds of Christmas trees, lights, presents, caroling, cards, and Advent calendars. I even like Christmas candy. Because I want to help people see Jesus in our holiday traditions, I want to share the story behind the candy cane.
I love the story behind the candy cane! Did you know that it started out as a pacifier? Parents would allow their babies to suck on a simple white stick of sugar to pacify them when they were fussy. While some parents may still use candy canes to keep their kids happy, the candy cane has come a long way since then.
In 1670 a German choirmaster transformed the candy canes and shaped them to look like a shepherd’s crook. He had the great idea of using the candy to keep children quiet at his Christmas pageant. If the children lost interest and felt the need to make noise during the Christmas pageant they now had something to keep them occupied.
Fast forward a few hundred years and we find the candy cane under construction. As the legend goes- A candy maker in India decided to tell the true meaning of Christmas through the candy. He took the choirmaster’s “candy cane” and made a few improvements.
First, the candy maker changed the color. He added a red strip to the candy cane because he wanted to signify Jesus’ death. He wanted to remind people that Jesus shed his blood to take away our sins. Second, the candy maker added smaller red strips to the candy. This is to remind us that Jesus was beaten and it is “With His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Third, the white that remained on the candy is to show us that Jesus lived a perfect life. He was completely without sin.
After changing the candy cane’s color, the candy maker added a peppermint flavor. This was to call to mind hyssop. In the Old Testament the hyssop plant was used in sacrifices. This flavor was to remind people that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He is the one who laid down his life so that we might be free.
Not only was the flavor to represent Jesus’ sacrifice, but the fact that the candy was hard meant something. The hardness of the candy signifies that Jesus is the Rock of our salvation. In him alone is salvation.
The shape of the candy cane can also point to the shepherds. Remember the shepherds were the first people to hear about Jesus’ birth. We can rejoice along with the shepherds that our Savior was born.
Each candy cane has the story of Jesus imbedded in it. What a great way to share our great God with our children, friends, and family this holiday season.
Questions To Ask Your Kids?
- Can you guess what the colors of a candy cane represent? (Talk about Jesus’ death and how it brings us life.)
- Why do you think a candy cane is shaped to look like a cane? (Talk about the shepherds and Jesus’ birth.)
- Why do you think the candy maker changed the candy cane? (Share about how he wanted to spread the salvation of Jesus.)
- Can you guess what each part of the candy cane means? (Share the symbolism of the candy cane.)
(The information in this post came from Lisa Whelchel’s book The ADVENTure of Christmas pages 14 and 15.)