The candy cane is something most of us (at least those in western Europe and the Americas) know and associate with Christmas; but do you know how it got started?
According to folklore and Wikipedia, in Cologne, Germany, 1670, the choir master at the cathedral commissioned a confectioner to make these candies to calm the children during the Christmas pageant service. The white represents the sinless life of Jesus; the original canes were pure white, and a recipe for straight canes with coloured stripes was published in 1844. The red stripe has come to represent the blood of Jesus shed for us (his purpose in coming in the first place – Hebrews 2:14-18), in keeping with the symbolism of the white. The crook is to remind us of the shepherds who visited Jesus in the manger. Only as late as 1882 the candies began to be hung on Christmas trees as decoration, and while most candy canes are peppermint flavoured, there are many varieties (on our own Christmas tree we have peppermint, strawberry and apple).
The next time you see a candy cane, take a minute and think about the history behind it; for 345 years, they’ve been inspiring people to remember the reason Christ came to earth as a baby: To die for our sins (John 3:16-17) so that we could be reunited with God the Father in relationship, in friendship with him.
Almost everyone has things they are anxious about, or challenges in their lives that weigh on them. Maybe the person driving slowly in front of you just got some bad news – a health issue, or a loved one in trouble. Maybe the person who refuses to move when you ask to pass in a narrow passage doesn’t respond because they are deaf. We can never know what a stranger is going through, and I try to remember that when I encounter such a situation. We can get so involved in our own lives that we forget to pay attention to those around us.
This scripture in Proverbs reminds me not only to be more understanding, but to speak out encouragement. Perhaps a word of encouragement – a good word – is exactly what that person needs to hear in a moment of distress or dejection. If we see a person struggling then help them; but the prerequisite of that is that we observe others – that we get out of our own isolated little bubbles and reach out to those around us with our hearts, hands, and words.