Among my favorite things about Christmas are the many wonderful and inspiring legends that are incorporated into our celebrations. How many of these stories are you familiar with?
The Christmas Candy Cane
Some legends have beginnings that trace their roots back to multiple origins. One of these is the legend of the Christmas Candy Cane. The earlier dates back to 1670 when, according to the story, the choirmaster of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany would hand out sugar sticks to his young singers to keep them quiet during the extended program of a Living Nativity Scene. In keeping with the celebration, he had the candies bent with a hook at the end, to remember a shepherd’s staff.
Then in 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant, August Imgard of Woosted, Ohio, had a small tree decorated with candy canes. Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, someone added red and white stripes and peppermint flavoring to the candy. In Indiana in the early 1900s, a candymaker wanted to make a treat that would be more of a tribute to Jesus, so he developed the Christmas candy cane that we know today.
The white represents the virgin birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and the red stands of His blood, which saves us from sin. Many versions have three red stripes to remind us of the scourging which He received. The shape of the candy reminds both of a shepherd’s staff – He is our “Good Shepherd” – as well as the letter “J” to remind us of His name. The hard candy teaches that He is the Rock of Salvation, and when the candy is broken, it reminds us that when He was crucified, His body was broken for us.
That’s a lot of meaning in a simple piece of candy.
The Legend of the Poinsettia
The story is told of a young orphan girl in Mexico named Pepita. On Christmas Eve one year, she was walking by herself to the village church, and thinking about all the beautiful gifts that would be presented at the manger. She began to cry, because she was too poor to have a gift to bring. As she wept, suddenly an angel appeared, and told her to gather a group of weeds from the side of the road and to give them to the Christ Child.
Pepita did as she was instructed and went on to the cathedral. She ignored the angry looks from other churchgoers, who could not believe this poor child would bring a handful of weeds. As she knelt in front of the manger, suddenly the leaves burst into beautiful, brilliant red leaves! And so the villagers renamed this gorgeous crimson plant with the yellow-gold buds at the center Flores de Noche Beuna – Flower of the Holy Night.
A Christmas Prayer
Finally, we close with a poem that was legendarily written by famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson was born in Scotland in 1850. As a young man, he rejected religion and the organized church but later in life, he is said to have developed a very personal faith and a journal of his prayers was published after his death from a stroke in 1894. We’ll give him the final word today in this poem, “A Christmas Prayer.”
Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.