The candy cane started out about 400 years ago as a plain stick of white candy. As Christmas trees became popular in Europe people began putting them on their trees as decorations along with other foods like fruit and cookies. The first reference to these candy sticks in relation to Christmas came in 1670. A choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany gave the candy to the children that attended the church's nativity services so they would be quiet. To make the candy go along with the spirit of the services he bent the candy into the shape of a shepherd's staff.
The first reference to the candy cane in America came in 1847 when a German immigrant living in Ohio named August Imgard decorated his tree with the sweet treats. About 50 years later the first candy canes with red stripes appeared. Peppermint and wintergreen flavors were also added to the candy at this time making the candy cane the sweet Christmas favorite it is today.
The candy cane, as with many other things that we associate with Christmas, can be used as a symbol of Jesus and point others to the reason for Christ's birth. Here are some pictures of Christ that we can see from the candy cane.
- The candy cane is in the shape of a shepherd's staff. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. (John 10:11; Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11)
- Upside down the candy cane forms the letter "J", the first letter of Jesus' name.(Luke 1:31)
- The candy cane is made of hard candy to remind us that Jesus is the Rock of our salvation.
- The wide red stripes on the candy cane represent the blood He shed on the cross for each one of us so that we can have eternal life through Him. (Luke 22:20)
- The white stripes on the candy cane represent the virgin birth, sinless life, and purity of our Lord. He is the only human being who ever lived who never committed a single sin, even though He was tempted just as we are. (1 Peter v22)
- The narrow red stripes on the candy cane symbolize that by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3)
- The flavoring in the candy cane is peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is of the mint family and was used in Old Testament times for purification and sacrifice. (John 19:29, Psalm 51:7)
- When we break our candy cane it reminds us, just as communion does, that Jesus' body was broken for us. (1 Cor. 11:24)
- If we share our candy cane and give some to someone else in love because we want to, it represents that same love of Jesus because He is to be shared with one another in love. (1 John 4:7,8)