Claim: Candy canes were created as Christian symbols representing the blood and purity of Jesus.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 1997]
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy
The first of these claims — that the candy cane was intended as a means by which persecuted Christians could furtively identify each other — is directly contradicted by history. Even questionable accounts regarding the origins of the candy cane place its origins no earlier the latter part of the
Another popular account claims a choirmaster in Cologne, Germany, as the inventor of the candy cane:
The claim that candy canes were created by "a candymaker in Indiana" who "stained them with red stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received" is similarly lacking in documentation and historically problematic. (One has to wonder how it is we supposedly know that one specific person invented the candy cane, we know where he lived, and we know precisely why he made candy canes the way he did, yet no one even knows his name.) The existence of candy sugar sticks with colored stripes has been documented at least as far back as 1844, but visual evidence of the J-shaped, white-with-a-red-stripe modern candy cane did not appear until the beginning of the 20th century: Christmas cards produced before 1900 show plain white canes, but striped canes only started to appear on Christmas cards at the beginning of the
The strongest connection one might make between the origins of the candy cane and any intentional Christian association is to guess that possibly some unknown person, at some indefinite time, took a long-existing form of sweet (i.e., straight white sticks of sugar candy) that was already associated with Christmas and produced bent versions of it to represent a shepherd's crook and/or make it easier to hang on Christmas trees, but even that general association is nothing more than mere supposition with no supporting evidence behind it.
There is one verifiable (albeit indirect) religious connection associated with the modern candy cane, however.
In 1919 Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local use and sales in Albany, Georgia, and by the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later
Claims made about the candy's Christian symbolism have become increasingly widespread as religious leaders have assured their congregations that these mythologies are factual, the press have published these claims as authoritative answers to readers' inquiries about the confection's meaning, and several lavishly illustrated books purport to tell the "true story" of the candy cane's origins. This is charming folklore, but one should not lose sight of the fact that such stories of the candy cane's origins are, like Santa Claus, myths and not "true stories."
Barbara "the cane mutiny" Mikkelson
Sightings: Fictional accounts of the candy cane's religious origins are the subject of a number of colorful Christmas volumes, including The Candymaker's Gift: A Legend of the Candy Cane by Helen Haidle (1996), The Candy Cane Story by Joy Merchant Nall and Thomas Nall, Jr. (1996), The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg (1997), and the children's book The "J" Is for Jesus by Alice Joyce Davidson (1998).
Last updated: 23 December 2014
Eveleth, Rose. "We Don't Know the Origins of the Candy Cane, But They Almost Certainly Were Not Christian." Smithsonian. 11 December 2012. Garrison, Webb. Treasury of Christmas Stories. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55-853087-8. Gotshall, Rich. "Humble Candy Cane Symbol of Faith'" The Indianapolis Star. 17 December 1994 (p. B4). Green, Larre. "Candy Cane Steeped in Holy Symbolism." The Dallas Morning News. 22 December 1996 (p. C2). Samuels, Alisa. "Tracing Roots of Tradition." The Baltimore Sun. 2 December 1994 (p. B3). Symansic, Tricia. "Candy Canes Are Also a Treat for the Soul." The Columbus Dispatch. 21 December 1996 (p. E10). Wagner, Arlo. "School Blocks Christmas Notes, Leaves Sour Taste." The Washington Times. 24 December 1996 (p. C7).