The DC Voice

The Candy Cane

It is beginning to look like Christmas! As the holiday approaches us hastily, we go about ways of inviting it ever-so merrily.

Covering our homes with Christmas décor; white twinkling lights in our windows and wreaths hanging on the outside of our doors. Garland and tinsel wrapped around railings, elves on shelves, mistletoe and more.

Can’t forget the Christmas tree so full and green, lights of countless colors and ornaments that gleam. Of course, a topper to make it complete, but we mustn’t neglect what we hang on the branches to make it minty and sweet.

According to folklore and Candy History (Cologne, Germany 1670) the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, was wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve. He asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white color of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus Christ.

From Germany, candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity. As such, according to this legend, the candy cane became associated with Christmastide (Christmastime).

From the folklore, to this day, many people have still tie religious meaning to the shape and form of the candy cane. It is said that its shape is like the letter “J” in Jesus’ name. It is also in the shape of the shepherds’ crook; symbolic of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd” watches over his children like little lambs. It is a hard candy, solid like a “rock”, the foundation of the Church. The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice, and this is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice he made.

Some say the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth. The bold red stripe represents God’s love. The three fine stripes are said by some to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Others say they represent the blood spilled at the beating Jesus received at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

Nowadays most candy canes are available in different shapes, colors and flavors; but the red and white peppermint candy cane still remains the classic favorite among them. From its plain early beginnings to its familiar shape and color of today; the candy cane is a symbol of Christmas and a reminder of the meaning of the holiday.

P.S. The United States has a National Candy Cane day— it’s on December 26th; so, make sure to save some on the tree!

Natalie Davis

Natalie Davis

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August 2020

The walls and alleys in DC are adorned with colorful and interesting displays of the artistic, historic, and often colorful richness of the nation's capital. We feature these works of art as backgrounds for The DC Voice web site. Hopefully, it brings further recognition to those artists!

This month's image is one of my favorites and one of three that adorns North Capitol & Florida Avenues NW.

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