SYMBOLISM OF A CANDY CANE
from KNIGHT TEMPLAR magazine Vol. 34 No. 12 December 88
No season is so rich in signs and symbols as is
Christmastide. We are literally surrounded by beauty,
artistry, craftsmanship, and creative ability, as so
many visual expressions draw our attention to the birth
of Christ. The stars of silver, gold, and shining blue
remind us of the new star seen in the east. Every
Carol breathes the spirit of angelic voices. Greens of
every description remind us of the eternalness of
life with God. Our gifts to others imply the greater
gift we would offer to the baby Jesus.
Of the scenes of Christmas, none is more beautiful than
the shepherds on the hillside watching their flocks
by night, with crooks in hand, about their humble business
of guarding and keeping safe their flocks. From here
they receive the announcement, "Unto you is born a
Savior." (Luke 2:11 KJV) Then they joined together to
go "see the great sight which had come to pass." (Luke 2:15)
The shepherd's crook was at the first service of worship
of the Christ. Its counterpart is our candy cane - so
old as a symbol that we have nearly forgotten its origin.
We are immediately attracted by its color - the red and
the white. Red is for sacrifice; white is for purity.
The body of the cane is white, representing the life that
is pure, or that may be pure: "Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8 RSV) But
only in so far as we are pure do men see God; not yonder
but here, not then but now, shall we see Him. As you are
pure, so shall He be to you. Even as the Christ Child
came in all purity, so do we seek the purity of life He
brings. Even as the shepherds came in humility and purity
of purpose, so is our worship always to be in humbleness
before the Lord.
The broad red stripe is symbolic of our Lord's sacrifice
for us. We may celebrate the birth of a child, Jesus,
but we must also be mindful of the man, Christ. Christmas
always brings us ultimately to Calvary. We pause to
reflect on who we find yonder on Calvary's tree. Just
as we take the Christmas tree to mark His birth, so we
transpose it into an old rugged cross in Lent to remind
us that God "came down at Christmas" to reveal His love
and to prove the extent of His love. He gave His life
on the cross in sacrifice for our sin.
And then the many smaller stripes: these symbolize the
sacrifices we must make as Christians, the offerings we
would bring to be intertwined with the supreme sacrifice
of our Savior. They may mean the wounded sheep He has
brought to the fold or the scars of our sorrows, which
the Good Shepherd bore for us, or the lesser pains and
sufferings we must bear in witness to Him in whom we
believe. The form - a staff - suggests a symbol of
service: the Savior Shepherd seeking His own with
a determination that none shall perish; we fulfilling
our purpose as those who He has called to serve even
as He came to serve. The form of a staff suggests life
is a service, even as the Christian life is a worship.
But of course the color and form give way to the aroma
of peppermint and its pungent taste. Peppermint is akin
to the aromatic herb hyssop; recall the Psalmist's
plea (5:17): Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Old Testament scholars suggest the use of hyssop not
only for its delightful taste but also for medicinal
purposes. A healing nature is suggested. What better
symbolism at Christmas for us, for we are told,
"With his stripes we are healed"?(Isaiah 53:5)
It is candy, and candy cane is to be shared - broken
down into myriad pieces for all to share. It draws
us into a fellowship of sharing. How good it is to
remind ourselves of Jesus' statement, "This is my
body," broken for us. (Matthew 26:26) Just as Jesus'
body is broken in order to be shared, just so our
lives as good stewards must be shared. We come to
realize as children of God and sharers of Christ's
life that only as we give shall we receive!
Love came down at Christmas, all lovely and divine.
Now in the season of Christmas we seek to spread
that love among all men. One symbol is the shepherd's
crook, made visible in its implications through a
candy cane. It calls us to serve; its red bands direct
us to a life of sacrifice; its essence of mint relates
the tastefulness of those who would share. We are
also reminded that our lives might be pure, made
white by the sacrifice of our Savior, circling
ourselves and spiraling up into lives of love and peace.