Candy-cane Lore

The stockings that I found as a child next to my bedroom door on the morning of December 6th — St. Nicholas’ feast day — and tucked under the tree on Christmas morning were always overflowing with goodies: oranges and apples, walnuts and pecans still in the shell, and candy, candy, candy!

But each candy meant something: There were always gum-drop bells in the stocking to represent the songs the angels sang to the shepherds about Christ’s birth, and chocolate coins for the bundles of gold coins Bishop Nicholas left for the poor family with three daughters. Finally, the big candy cane slipped over the cuff of the stocking was a symbol of the staff that Bishop Nicholas carried: every bishop carries one just like it, too, because the bishops are responsible for watching over the Lord’s flock.

My mother taught me to say an extra prayer for “my” bishop whenever I crunched into a candy cane, or hung one on a wreath or tree branch, so he’d do his job well. I just knew him as a kind, older man with a long white beard and bright purple “cape” who visited our parish several times a year; I had no other understanding of his duties. Now, as an adult, I know how much “my” bishop travels so that he can watch over, teach, and reassure ‘the flock” — building and strengthening the Church — and I know why my mother told me what she did! (Candy-cane season doesn’t seem like enough any more, so I’ve extended this personal tradition to be applied for all types of mints. Silly, I know, but a great reminder to pray…)

Here is another bite of “modern” candy-cane lore you might enjoy sharing with your children, adapted from ACSI Ohio River Valley Regional News, November/December 2000:

Many years ago, a pious old candy maker decided to make a special candy for Christmas, to remind people how important this holiday was and what it really meant. He started with pure white mint candy, to remind those who tasted it of the sinless nature of Christ and the way He came into the world: born of a pure virgin. He made the candy hard, so those who broke off pieces would remember the “rock” on which Christ built His Church, the statement of the Apostle Peter that He was indeed the only Son of God.

The candy maker shaped the stick of candy into a crook, to remind those who saw it that Jesus Christ is the both Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. When He hears even one stray sheep calling, He will find him and return him to the flock, and He offered Himself as a sacrifice to bring salvation to all mankind.

Thinking that his candy creation was very plain, for all it symbolized, the candy maker added a thick red stripe to it, for the Blood that He shed on the Cross, along with three thin stripes, for the scourging and humiliation He suffered on our behalf.

The candy cane tells the story of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

by Nichola T. Krause

© 2001 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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