The candy cane has been around for centuries. The candy cane can be traced back
as far as the 1400’s. The candy cane started off as being a straight, white stick of
hard candy and over the years a hook and stripes were added
Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany
handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the
long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent
into shepherds' crooks.
In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio,
decorated a small blue spruce Christmas tree with paper ornaments and candy
canes. It wasn't until the turn of the century that the red and white stripes and
peppermint flavors was added by an Indian candy maker because he wanted to
make a candy cane for Christmas that symbolizes the birth and life of Jesus Christ.
Today, the Candy Cane is one of the most popular Christmas candies ever made.
The candy cane has much symbolism in it concerning Christ. My hope is that you
will remember Jesus Christ and all he’s done for you every time you look at a candy
cane, eat a candy cane, or hang one on your Christmas tree.
In the beginning the candy cane was a plain white stick which reminds us of the
virgin birth. Mary was the virgin that God chose to be the mother of Jesus. God
must have seen something very special in her and knew she would be agreeable
and trustworthy. The angel Gabriel came to Mary to give her the good news.
“ 26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee
named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the
house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said
to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among
women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered
what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,
Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your
womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and
will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of
His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His
kingdom there will be no end.”
“Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And
the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the
power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to
be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also
conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was
called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold
the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel
departed from her.” (Luke 1:26-38)
I absolutely love the response of Mary to this highly unusual news and event that
was soon to take place. She had no idea what it meant to be overshadowed by the
Holy Spirit, but she trusted God and took the angel at his word. It’s still a mystery
today. We don’t know exactly how it happened, but we know that it did!
Mary was willing to risk ridicule, being ostracized, and possibly even being stoned
to death for her alleged harlotry and, was even willing to risk her relationship with
her betrothed, Joseph. She was willing to risk it all to be obedient to the call of God
to be the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
God then sent the angel to speak to Joseph about what has happen to Mary. Mary
being pregnant would have been a big pill for him to swallow. He loved Mary, but
the thought of her getting pregnant by another man would have been more than
he could have handled.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed
to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public
example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these
things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph,
son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is
conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall
call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord
through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a
Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded
him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her
firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. (Matthew 1: 18-25)
The name given to this baby boy, the Son of God, was no ordinary name. His name
had special meaning and purpose. “Jesus” literally means Savior. He was given that
name because He was sent to save the people from their sins.
The candy cane is in the shape of a “J” which stands for Jesus. When Jesus was
made flesh, God condescended to us in bodily form; that’s why he was called
Immanuel which means “God with us.” Jesus has always existed from the
beginning just as God has always existed. In the beginning Jesus was known as the
“Word of God.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and
without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was
the light of men.” (John 1: 1-4)
“14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the
glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
If you will notice there are three small red stripes on the candy cane. This reminds
us that Jesus came in human flesh. The red represents his humanity. The three red
stripes also reminds us that He is the second person of the Holy Trinity- God the
Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
Even though Jesus came in the flesh, He lived a sinless life which is also represented
in the candy cane by the color white. It states in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was “in all
points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a census being taken by Caesar Augustus.
Everyone had to return his own city to be registered, so Joseph “also went up from
Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called
Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered
with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”(Luke 2:4-5)
And while they were there in Bethlehem, Mary brought forth her firstborn son and
wrapped Him is swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no
room for them in the inn.
In the little book of Micah, is recorded a well-known prophecy concerning the
coming of the Messiah, the “One to Rule.” Micah prophesied that Jesus would be
born in Bethlehem and he even used the symbology of a Shephard.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of
Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose
goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” 3 Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His
brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. 4 And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they
shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; 5 And this One shall
be peace. (Micah 5:2-5)
If you turn the candy cane so the hook is at the top, it looks like a staff, or a
shepherds hook. The staff is symbolic for Jesus the Good Shepherd. Jesus said this
of himself in the book of John, ““I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives
His life for the sheep. I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father
knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And
other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will
hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 11, 14-16)
The shape of the candy cane in the shepherd’s staff also reminds us of the angelic
announcement that was made to the shepherds out in the fields that glorious
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping
watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before
them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings
of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city
of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will
find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there
was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it
was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds
said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come
to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and
found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen
Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the
shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then
the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had
heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:8-20)
The book of Matthew tells the story of the Wise Men who came from the east
following the Star to find the “King of the Jew” and to worship him. It took them
quite a while to get there from so far away. By the time they reached Bethlehem,
Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus were no longer in the stable, but in a house; and
Jesus was no longer a new born, but a little child.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,
behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has
been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to
worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem
with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people
together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of
Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
“7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them
what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and
search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back
word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” 9 When they heard the king,
they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before
them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the
star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the
house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and
worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to
Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-11)
The Wise Men brought three gifts which are represented in the hardness of the
candy cane and the flavor of the candy. The Peppermint flavoring represents the
spices of Frankincense and Myrrh. The gold is represented in the hard candy itself.
The hard candy represents the Rock, Jesus Christ and the sure and true promises of
God. Psalm 61:2-3 says, “From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart
is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a
shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.” Jesus is our Rock and we can
always run to Him in times of trouble! He will never leave us or forsake us!
After the Wise Men worshipped Jesus, that night they were divinely warned in a
dream that they should not report back to King Herod, but they should return
home another way. Soon after they left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in
a dream. The angel told him, ““Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to
Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to
destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night
and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I
called My Son.”
After Jesus was taken out of Bethlehem as directed by the angel of the Lord and
taken into Egypt, King Herod commanded that all the baby boys two years old and
younger be killed!
“16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly
angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in
Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the
time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was
spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)
When Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream in
Egypt. The angel said to him, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to
the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” But when
Joseph heard that Herod’s son was reigning now in his place, he turned aside into
the region of Galilee and dwelt in the city of Nazareth. This is where Jesus grew up
and was known as a Nazarene.
There are just a couple of symbols left in the candy cane I want to share with you.
Yes, the color red stood for Jesus’ humanity, but not only that, it stands for His
blood- the precious blood He would shed for us on the cross. Jesus was literally
born to die. God’s whole plan was to send Jesus to earth in human form to fully
identify with humanity in the flesh and to die for our sins so we could be reconciled
to God. Because God loved us so much “He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
It also says in 2 Corinthians 5:19 “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to
Himself,” – that’s what “Immanuel” is all about!
The wide red stripe on the candy cane represents the shed blood of Jesus Christ
that he shed for you and for me on Calvary. The three thin red stripes not only
stand for the Trinity, but for the stripes that Jesus took on his back. It plainly says in
Isaiah 53 that Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our
iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are
healed. And again it is stated in 1 Peter 2:24, “ who Himself bore our sins in His own
body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by
whose stripes you were healed.” Jesus not only took our sins on himself at the
cross, but he bore the stripes on his back for our healing- spirit, soul and body.
Every Christmas when you eat a candy cane or hang a candy cane on your
Christmas tree, I hope you will remember all that it stands for and all that Christ did
for you. I hope it’s a reminder of your eternal redemption, the blood that was shed,
and the always loving Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.