Along with candles, wreaths, stars, bells and mistletoes, another ubiquitous decorative item for Christmas, which is also a favorite with children, is the candy cane. In fact, the candy cane is so popular that it is one of the most visible items in any decoration, for Christmas or not. The candy cane is simple, eye-catching, and what's more, it's tasty. Though candy canes come in many flavors, the most popular and common flavor is peppermint and cinnamon. Candy canes can be hung with colorful ribbons and can be used to decorate almost anything, from an entire room to a cake or a Christmas tree; they add a very playful touch to everything. And like all other facets of Christmas, this J-shaped, red and white candy also has an interesting story, legend if you may call it, behind it. As so, the origin and symbolism of candy cane is steeped in myth.
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.
The candy cane is an important and attractive Christmas decorating item. Read the legend of candy cane to know why this is so.