Webster's defines a legend as "a story of some wonderful event, handed down for generations ... and popularly believed to have a historical basis." I found the legend of the candy cane in multiple sources, so you make your own decision as to its authenticity.
The story begins with a candy maker who wanted to make a candy to remind his customers to celebrate the birth of Jesus during the Christmas season. He chose to make a hard candy to symbolize Christ the rock upon which Christianity is built. The candy started out pure white to symbolize Jesus' virgin birth and his sinless nature. Red stripes were added to convey the message of the crucifixion with Jesus suffering and bloodshed. It was then formed into the shape of a shepherd's hook to symbolize Jesus as the good shepherd reaching down to care for his sheep and keep them from harm. If you turn a candy cane upside down it forms the letter "j" - the first letter of the name Jesus.
Red and white candy canes are still created today. However, few people associate them with the Christ child. We always put candy canes on our Christmas trees. The children and grandchildren knew that they were meant to be eaten; however, they had to ask before they indulged.
Ann R. Swanson
Do I think of the Christ child when I decorate the tree? You bet I do. If I can share my faith in some way I am willing. I have even made copies of the legend as it appeared on a bookmark I received to give to others along with a candy cane.
My tree has to have candy canes of different flavors because one of the grandchildren does not like peppermint. I much prefer the original flavor and design. The peppermint stick is a symbol of Christmas for me. When I was growing up Santa always gave out red-and-white candy canes.
While on a recent trip to New York City I saw a huge billboard in Times Square sponsored by an atheist group. I want to personally thank that group for bringing the true meaning of Christmas to the forefront. I am sure that many people did not read the words as I did, but look up to see the symbols of Santa and the Christ child occupying a place of prominence in the city that never sleeps. I wonder if atheists use Christmas canes on their trees? If they do, I am sure they do not realize that they are using a reminder of Christ's virgin birth and death.
A trip to the city is wonderful, but it is also good to return home away from the hustle and bustle. By Saturday evening you could hardly move in Times Square. The boys grabbed onto our coats just to be sure they did not get lost. It was a wonderful evening to enjoy the theatre and get out of the rat race. I cannot imagine what it must be like on New Year's Eve.
My youngest grandson said he couldn't wait until it smelled like home. He was annoyed by all of the smoke that he smelled while we were out and about.
My focus on this trip was to see the city the good and the bad. The two young ones had never visited before, so seeing all of the things that they read and hear about was important. I wish I had worn a pedometer because I know that we walked miles and miles. We saw all we intended to see and a great deal more. One disappointment was that we could not go on the Intrepid. It was closed because of damage from Sandy. We were able see the space shuttle on the ship.
On Saturday the city was flooded with Santas. They were raising money to feed the homeless, one of them told me. Everywhere you looked you saw another Santa. We got in the middle of the pack on one street and eventually moved to another street to make progress walking.
Some of our group focused on shopping, adding their hard-earned cash to help the NYC economy. Others saw plays and ate sumptuous meals. Everyone does what they want on this trip.
As we viewed the 9-11 memorial we realized that we had two in our party that simply view that event as history. Although the oldest boy was born, he was too little to remember what happened. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. I think the boys were most impressed by the new portion of tower that was added this week.
One grandson loved the Museum of Natural History; the other's favorite thing was a performance of "The Lion King." I think my son and I enjoyed it all. There is something very special about seeing an attraction through the eyes of your child and grandchild. The wonder of childhood is contagious.
Two of our party came back with a much different memory of this trip. A stop in Philadelphia changed the whole trip for them. They dilly-dallied a little too long getting food to eat, and the train left without them. Of course, all of their belongings, except for wallets and cash, disappeared along with the train. Thanks to a helpful man in the party who had a device that could hook to the Internet, a rental car was located so that grandpa and grandson were about an hour to an hour and a half behind us. I told the leader of the trip to remind her husband that I had paper and pen ready. She told me to have at it.
They missed out on the stop at the PSU Creamery for ice cream, but at least they were able to get back home in a timely fashion.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.