Candy Canes, Christmas Angels in the Kitchen

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: he began by swiping all the candy canes.

Nothing represents Christmas quite like a candy cane. We hang these seasonal candies on our Christmas trees; we decorate our cards and presents with them; and we pass them out to our kids and co-workers (occasionally wondering which group is more mature). We see big foam and cardboard candy canes on floats in parades, adorning the doors of department stores, clinging to street lamps in our shopping districts; and if we watch holiday classics such as Miracle on 34th Street or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we see candy canes pop up in numerous scenes.

Face it, everyone knows that a candy cane virtually sings out, “Merry Christmas!” But there’s far more the candy cane wishes to communicate: an unspoken — and at one time secret — message about the story behind Christmas.

We’ve written about several of the foods and kitchen items that “speak” to us in roundabout ways. In observing how we all respond to different aspects of dining, or through working with the many gadgets that facilitate cooking, or by living with the often idiosyncratic appliances which populate every home, we’ve discovered “similarities” between people and this host of “kitchen angels” who continue to inspire us to make comparisons and “rediscover” vital truths about life, love and relationships.

But concerning the candy cane, no creative analogies need be drawn to illustrate a Biblical truth; because the candy cane was actually designed to convey a singular message — but discreetly, lest someone take offense at the message! In fact, the candy cane is not only one of the very first “angels in the kitchen,” but also an “undercover” angel!

The candy cane was invented by a confectioner in Cologne, Germany, in 1670, under the directions of the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral. The clergyman had been looking for ways to keep the children in his church calm and quiet during the Living Crèche tradition on Christmas Eve. He eventually decided a long-lasting stick of hard peppermint candy might pacify his restless “babes”! But passing out candy during a worship service wasn’t exactly an appropriate or acceptable practice.

To justify serving candy in church, the choirmaster asked a local candy maker to shape and color the sweet treat in a manner that would remind kids of the ministry of their Savior. Hence, the candy cane would become a Bible study teaching aid — wholly acceptable in a house of worship! So, here now, for your edification (drumroll please) are the many lessons taught by the candy cane:

Because the stick of candy has a crook at the top, it resembles a  shepherd’s staff. This shape reminds children of the poor shepherds, in the Christmas story, who visited the infant Jesus; of the knowledge that the Heavenly Father is the Good Shepherd; and the revelation that Christ came to gather up God’s people and shepherd them back to the Father.

The snow white base-color of the candy cane reminds children (of all ages) of the purity of Jesus the Messiah: Christ shared all our human weaknesses when He walked the earth, and he faced the same temptations with which we struggle daily; and yet, He led a sinless life — which uniquely qualified our Lord as a perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, “a lamb without spot or wrinkle”! (1 Peter 1:19)

The traditional candy cane is marked by three thin red lines and one bold red band. The three scarlet stripes remind us that, about 2000 years ago, Jesus was scourged for our iniquities — and by His stripes we are healed! (Isaiah 53:5) The thick red band surrounding the cane represents the blood Christ shed that day, when He was sacrificed on a Roman cross at Calvary — the cleansing and redeeming blood of Christ which paid the full penalty for our sins, and which surrounds and covers every believer.

There are exactly three thin stripes to represent the divine presence and power of the Trinity of God — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — all working on behalf of anyone who trusts in Jesus!

Legends also relate that during a time of great Christian persecution during the latter half of the eighteenth century, believers used the candy cane as a means of discreetly identifying themselves: at a time when wearing crosses was forbidden, and any open display of faith in Christ or identification with Christians beliefs might result in death, believers relied on the mute message of the simple candy cane to express what was in their hearts.

The candy cane, God’s Christmas Angel in the Kitchen, stills bears greetings from our Lord throughout the holidays, as well as an important truth: that something insignificant, like a piece of hard candy — or a person whose made mistakes (and perhaps even continues to make mistakes) — can be transformed into something of great significance and value!

So, next time you see a candy cane, remember it doesn’t just represent Christmas, it tells the story behind Christmas!

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and … said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” (Luke 2:8-10 ESV)