Faith - The Legend of the Candy Cane

The Legend of the Candy Cane

By Todd Gaddis

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the food, particularly the sweets – especially the candy cane. I saw and craved peppermint ice cream in the supermarket recently, which goes really well with brownies, by the way. Yet as tasty as that sugary, minty candy is, the story and symbolism behind it are even better.

Although accounts vary, most trace peppermint sticks date back to 17th century Europe. According to the National Confectioners Association, the first documented use of candy canes in the U.S. came in 1847, when the German-Swedish immigrant August Imgard used them, along with paper ornaments, to decorate a blue spruce tree.

Georgia became part of this history in 1919, when Bob McCormack of Albany started what soon became Bob’s Candy Company and began making the candy cane; it was around this time the red stripes were added. Then, in the early 1950’s, a machine, invented by McCormack’s brother-in-law Gregory Keller allowed for more advanced manufacturing and increased production. Bobs, the largest producer of striped candy in the world, was sold to Farley & Sathers in 2005, which merged with Ferrara Pan in 2012 to become the Ferrara Candy Company.

Yet, despite all that good information, the inspiration the candy cane symbolizes is infinitely better. Note first, the candy is shaped in the form of a shepherd’s staff, which points to Jesus, “The Good Shepherd” – one who protects and provides.

The color red represents the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of our sin. That may not be a pleasant subject, yet, as Scripture records, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

The one large stripe depicts the beatings and death Jesus experienced. Like the Bible says, He was, “wounded for our transgressions . . . and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The movies and Easter pageants you’ve seen don’t do it justice, as Christ was actually beaten beyond the point of recognition (see Isaiah 52:14).

The three small stripes are there to remind us that as believers, we too must endure sacrifices and suffering on occasion, albeit nothing like He went through – thankfully. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).

The white portion of the candy symbolizes Jesus’ purity, specifically His virgin birth and sinless life. The odor is much like that of hyssop, which served in Bible times as a healing ointment. The candy can is often broken and shared, which represents the broken body of Christ and His inheritance that we share.

As you see, or better yet consume candy canes this Christmas season, remember its Georgia connection. More importantly, consider the spiritual message: Jesus, whose birthday it is we celebrate, lived, died, and rose from the grave in order that we might experience abundant and eternal life. How sweet is that!

Todd Gaddis lives in Paulding County and is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church Dallas. Learn more about his church at FBCDallas.com and his work at ToddGaddis.com.