The Legend of the Candy Cane
By Lori Walburg
One dreary evening in the depths of November a stranger rode into town. He stopped his horse in front of a lonely storefront. The windows were boarded shut and the door was locked fast. But the man looked at it, smiled, and said, “It will do.”
All through the gray short days and the long dark nights of November, the man worked.
The townspeople could hear the faint pam pam pam of his hammer and the snish snish snish of his saw.
They could smell the sweet clean scent of new lumber and the deep oily smell of new paint.
But no one knew who the man was or what he was doing.
The mayor hoped he was a doctor, to heal his illness. The young wives hoped he was a tailor, to make beautiful dresses. The farmers hoped he was a trader, to exchange their grain for goods.
But the children had the strongest, deepest wish of all. A wish they did not tell their parents. A deep, quiet, secret wish that none of them said out loud.
No one spoke to the man. No one asked if he needed help. They just waited. And watched. And wondered. And wished.
But one small girl watched and wondered, waited and wished longer than she could stand. And one snowy day she knocked at the stranger’s door. “Hello,” she said. “My name is Lucy. Do you need some help?”
The man smiled warmly and nodded. Then he opened the door, and Lucy stepped inside.
A long counter ran down the side of the room. Bare shelved filled the opposite walls. In the back were dozens and dozens of barrels and crates.
“Could you help me unpack?” the man asked.
Lucy’s heart sank at the sight of all the boxes. What if they were only barrels of nails and bags of flour?
But she removed her dripping boots and hung her coat on a peg. On stocking feet, she crossed the rough wooden floor and knelt beside a crate.
“Please. Open it,” the man urged.
Slowly, Lucy put her hand into the box and pulled out an object wrapped in tissue. Round and heavy, it almost slipped through her fingers. Lucy trembled a little as she unwrapped it.
It was a glass jar.
Lucy gave the man a puzzled look. “Go on,” his nod said.
So she unpacked another glass jar, and another, and another, until she was completely surrounded by jars of all shapes and sizes. Tall and thin. Round and squat. Jars with lids and jars without.
“Now,” the man said, “for something to put inside.” And he pulled over a huge crate stamped with a strange word.
As Lucy unpacked, her eyes lit up.
It was candy. Her favorite candy. Gumdrops!
“Try some,” the man said.
She popped one in her mouth. Now she could hardly unwrap fast enough. Peppermint sticks! Taffy! Lollipops! Chewing gum!
Wide-eyed, she looked at the man.
“We wished—,” Lucy said.
“Yes, I know,” said the man. “And here it is. Welcome to Sonneman’s Candy Store. I am John Sonneman.”
Soon the small store was filled with candies, gleaming in their glass jars. Raspberry suckers and tiny lemon drops. Brightly colored jawbreakers and long tangles of licorice. Pink and white peppermints for church and butterscotch balls for company.
Then, in the very last package in the very last crate, was a candy Lucy had never seen before, a red-and-white striped candy stick with a crook on the end.
“What is this?” Lucy asked.
“This,” Mr. Sonneman explained, “is a candy cane. It is a very special Christmas candy.”
“Why?” Lucy asked.
“Tell me,” Mr. Sonneman said, “what letter does it look like?”
Lucy took the candy and turned it in her hand.
“J!” she said.
“Yes.” Mr. Sonneman smiled. “J for Jesus, who was born on Christmas day.”
“Now, turn it over. What does it remind you of?” Lucy turned the candy in her hand. She peered down intently. “I know!” she said finally. “It’s like a shepherd’s staff.”
“Who were the first to find out about Jesus’ birth?” Mr. Sonneman asked.
“Shepherds in the field,” Lucy answered, “watching over their flocks by night.”
“But Mr. Sonneman, what are the stripes for?” Lucy asked.
The man’s eyes grew sad. “The prophet Isaiah said, ‘By his stripes we are healed.’ Before he died on the cross, Jesus was whipped. He bled terribly. The red reminds us of his sufferings and his blood.
“But then,” Mr. Sonneman continued, “the candy is white as well. When we give our lives to Jesus, his blood washes away our sins, making us white and pure as snow.”
“That,” he said, “is the story of the candy cane.”
“Is it a secret?” Lucy asked.
Mr. Sonneman looked at her for a long moment, “It’s a story that needs to be told,” he said. “Will you help me share it?”
It was now the depths of December. The town was whipped round by blizzard winds. For days, the sun hid itself.
But every morning, Mr. Sonneman and Lucy ventured out. They wore heavy woolen coats and bright hand knit scarves. And in their stiff, mittened fingers they each held a bag.
They went to every house is town. They traveled to every farm in the country. They knocked on every door. In every home, they told the story, they left a small gift, and they give an invitation.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the sun finally broke through the clouds.
And Sonneman’s Candy Store officially opened.
The mayor came, feeling better than he’d felt in days. The young wives came, dressed in beautiful smiles. The farmers came, eager to trade grain for Christmas gifts. The children ran in dizzy circles.
Yes, their wish had come true.
Yes, they had come to share in the opening of the candy store.
But they shared something more. Something bigger. Something better.
On that Christmas Eve, they shared the story of the candy cane. They told of the miracle of Christ’s birth. The misery of his death. And the mercy of his love.