The Legend of the Candy Cane


A candy cane emulates the shape of the crozier, or shepherd’s crook, carried by Orthodox bishops as a symbol of office.

The candy-cane-shaped crozier is one of the particular symbols of Saint Nicholas, the 4th Century Bishop of Myra who partly inspired the legend of Santa Claus.

One oft-told story about the origin of the candy cane dates to Germany in the 17th Century.

According to the version of the tale told at CandyUSA! it was the choirmaster at the cathedral in Cologne who made the first candy canes, in about 1670. He bent sugar sticks into the shape of a shepherd’s crook and gave them to his young singers, as a treat and to help keep them quiet during long Christmas services.

Candy canes remained  simple, white sugary confections for more than two centuries. Only early in the 1900s did they acquire their red stripes and peppermint flavoring. But because they were made by hand, the supply of candy canes was limited. Finally, in the 1950s,  a Catholic priest invented machinery to shape, bend, fold and stripe candy canes, enabling greatly expanded production — and popularity. (The device that bends the canes into the shape of a shepherd’s crook is called, naturally, a “crooker.”)

The National Confectioners Association (overseers of the CandyUSA! Web site) counts an annual production of 1.76 billion candy canes. Although they now are produced in variety  of colors and flavors, peppermint with red-with-white-stripes remains the favorite of modern traditionalists.

christmas candy canes

The Legend of The Candy Cane:  Every year as Christmas nears, candy canes show up in stores and millions are purchased and consumed each year. While candy canes are no doubt delicious, they are more than just a pretty, tasty sweet to enjoy around Christmas.

I heard this legend of the candy cane years ago:

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Many years ago, a candymaker wanted to make a candy at Christmas time that would serve as a witness to his Christian faith. He wanted to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus.

He began with a stick of pure white hard candy. The white symbolized the virgin birth and the sinless life of Jesus.

He made the candy hard to symbolize the that Jesus is the solid rock and the foundation of the church. The firmness also represents the promises of God.

The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. He thought it could also represent the staff of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

The candy maker then added red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could be forgiven and have the promise of eternal life.

The flavor of mint is similar to hyssop. In Old Testament times, hyssop was associated with purification and sacrifice. It was also used at the cross as they gave Jesus a drink of vinegar before He gave up the Ghost.

Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who’s sinless and pure!
“J” is for Jesus,
My Lord, that’s for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

So whether or not this tale is the true candy cane meaning, it presents us as believers with a simple opportunity to share a little bit of the Gospel story with those we meet during the Nativity season.

May the Lord bless you as you share your faith in Christ with others!

About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR.
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