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Did you know that the candy cane has had a long history?

candy canesThe classic peppermint flavor of the candy cane has been around for 600 years, but the original candy canes didn’t have the now iconic hook but were just straight sticks. In 1640, a German choirmaster decided to change things up by curving the shape to look more like a shepherd’s staff, resulting in the candy cane shape we all know and love today.
About this same time, Christmas trees became popular Christmas decorations and candy canes were part of those decorations. If your family is like my family, there’s a good chance that you have candy canes on your own tree today. (We put up our tree on Thanksgiving weekend.) That hook in the candy cane makes it easy to hang those candy canes on the tree.

The candy cane was first introduced to America in 1847 by a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard.

One legend suggests that an Indiana-based candy-maker shaped the peppermint stick into a “J” shape to represent Jesus, with the white stripe symbolizing the purity of his birth and the red stripe later added to acknowledge the blood he shed on the cross. This origin claim has been debunked, because white candy and peppermint sticks existed in Germany since the 1600s. It may be possible though that this Indiana-based candy-maker attached this symbols to the candy cane to make a deeper connection with the holiday season.

Since candy canes were originally made by hand, they were sold out of local candy shops. It wasn’t until the 1950s a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller invented a machine that could make candy canes that curve automatically. Once automated, candy canes became a popular Christmas confection. Every year, 1.76 billion candy canes are sold and ninety percent of them are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In 2012, Geneva pastry chef Alain Roby broke his third Guinness World Record by creating the world’s longest candy cane. This candy cane was 51 feet long. The previous record had been 38 feet.

Though other flavors do exist, the most popular flavor is remains peppermint flavored ones with red stripes on white.

Do you have candy canes around your house this holiday season?


 

Santa_Claus_face

When I was little, I was told that there was a Santa Claus. However, I figured out very quickly (at about 3 years old) that Old Saint Nicholas was a myth. I remember telling my friends at school that there wasn’t a Santa Claus and they treated me as though I were a villain! I vowed then and there that I wasn’t going to perpetuate the lie with my own children. However, as the years went by, I have since relaxed my views.

When my Eldest Son was Little

When my eldest son was little, we had gifts, but the gifts came from family members, not the mythical character. We didn’t have a Christmas tree or any of the other trappings that go with Christmas. We just shared gifts and the Christmas story.

A few years later, after my second son was born, I lightened up on some of the other holiday traditions. We had Christmas decorations and a tree. However, we still didn’t have Santa Claus as part of our celebration. I wasn’t letting a mythical character share the limelight in the celebrations surrounding the second most holy day in Christendom.

Another Ten Years Went By

When my sons were younger, I always told them not to share the fact that Santa was not real with their friends. I even told them the story of what I had to face when I told my friends that there was no Santa Claus.

As I got older, however, I began to see the lack of fun and imagination that comes with “not believing in Santa Claus”. I personally loved watching the Santa Clause with my boys. It was fun to pretend that Santa was real.

My second son was ten when my daughter was born. By the time she was born, Santa Claus was back into our Christmas traditions. The difference we made, however, was that everyone knew that Santa was pretend. My youngest was told from day one that Santa was not real, but we were going to pretend that he was real. We would talk about Santa like he was a real person, but if my daughter was confused about whether he was real or not, I would tell her that he was pretend.

The idea came from something that happened when my eldest was about six years old. I was out blackberry picking while he was talking ninety miles per minute at me. He was telling me a story that I knew was not true and I called him on it. He told me, “It’s just a story, Mom. It’s just a story!”

It’s just a Story

Personally, I have nothing against pretending with our children, especially about someone as benevolent as Santa Claus. Like other forms of fiction, we can use the Santa Claus myth to teach our children about giving to others. The Santa story is also a story that boosts the imagination and by pretending the Santa character with our children, we can build our relationship with them. It is important for everyone to know the truth about the Santa character. Understanding the difference between fact and fiction is a concept that children can be introduced to early and Santa is a reasonable way to introduce this concept to our children.

But was Santa Claus just a fictional character? No, he wasn’t.

Based on a Real Person

Santa Claus was not just a story, however, and it is important for children to understand the history behind the story. Santa is based on St. Nicholas, born around 280 AD in what is now Turkey. Nicholas was known for helping the poor. By 1600, he was a popular saint, especially in Holland, where he was known as Sinter Klaas. By 1800, Dutch emigrants had introduced him to the United States, later helped by the writer Washington Irving passing on their stories about him, and by Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about the Santa Claus Myth? Do you promote it with your children? Do you ignore it all together, or do you, like me, use Santa Claus to teach your children (or grandchildren) about life?

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