What's in a Candy Cane? The Hidden Christian Meaning Behind the Ancient Christmas Treat

The candy cane is a popular treat during the Christmas season.

Little is known about the origins of the candy cane or if its symbolism was intentional. There are many stories about the motivation behind this peppermint treat.

Smithsonian Magazine even tried to debunk the claims of any intentional Christian symbolism linked to this Christmas candy entirely.

However, as a mother and a Catholic, I think it is a great tool for catechesis and yet another reminder that Jesus is the reason for the season!

Below you will find the alleged symbolism behind the candy cane you know and love.

Caroline Perkins, ChurchPOP

Shape: A Shepherd’s Staff

This symbolizes the shepherds who noticed the bright star of Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth. It can also be a nod to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Red and White Colors

The red symbolizes the blood Jesus shed for our sins and the white represents His purity. It is also said to be a nod to Mary’s virginity.

Caroline Perkins, ChurchPOP

The Letter “J”

If you flip the candy cane upside down it reveals the letter “J” for Jesus! This reminds us that Jesus is the reason for the season.

The Hardness of the Candy Cane

This represents the solid foundation of Christ’s Church.

The Sweetness of the Candy Cane

The tasty peppermint flavor is a reminder that life is sweet when Jesus is in your heart.

I discovered an enduring story about how the candy cane got its hook, though.

It involved Bob McCormack of Bobs Candy–the largest manufacturer of striped candy in the world at the time, and his brother-in-law, Father Gregory Harding Keller. Yep, a Catholic priest!

Father Keller noticed the burdensome shaping process involved in making the hooked candy. So, he invented a machine that would twist the candy into spirals, cut it, and put the crook in the candy cane. This invention became known as the Keller Machine.

Even if the Christian message behind this beloved treat isn’t backed by credible sources, the treat is in fact associated with the Christian holiday of Christmas, right? So let’s run with it!

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