Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Traditions #1- Candy Canes

There are so many things that we associate with Christmas and the holiday season, and, of course, each of them has their own legend. Some of these come out of Christian religious traditions, some from other mythologies and still others come straight out of the need to stuff our wallets. Strangely enough, the candy cane fits into all of these.

Part of the legend of the candy cane says that the peppermint candy was created not long after Jesus' death. In the early years of Christianity, those who followed the teachings of Jesus were persecuted- crucified themselves, tortured, fed to the lions for the sport of the Romans. It was dangerous to publicly be a Christian. Supposedly, carrying a candy cane was a way to secretly show your Christian loyalties to other Christians, sort of a secret signal.

Umm, not quite true. The earliest know descriptions of candy canes come from the late 1500's when parents would bring peppermint sticks to church services to keep their young children quiet (the services could be quite long and it takes a long time to get the good out of a candy cane). From this point until the early 1900's, candy canes were all white.

This is when the legend takes another religious twist. According to tradition, in the early 20th century, an Indiana candymaker decided to honor Jesus' suffering and death. Candy canes were already a part of holiday decorating, so he took two colors- red and white- and swirled them together. The red stripes honor the stripes on Jesus' back from the lashes he received and the blood that he shed for us. The white represents his purity. The Indiana candymaker also gave the candy cane its little hook at the end, turning it into a "J" for Jesus.

Is this true? Snopes says no, that the legend was created as a way to get more money for candy makers. But, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't really matter. To me, candy canes are just another way to honor Jesus and play a big role in my Christmas decorating and traditions.


  1. That's really cool! I didn't know all of that. I had only heard about it being related to Jesus. Thanks for clearing it for me. Great post!

  2. You are very welcome! Keep an eye out- I've got more coming between now and Christmas. I didn't realize how much interesting stuff there is related to Christmas.