The candy cane is shaped like a shepherd’s crook, reminding us that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came into our world at Christmas. The red stripe symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice and the white background His purity. The candy cane reminds us of Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7) and by his stripes you were healed (Isaiah 53:5). Candy canes have a peppermint flavor, reminiscent of hyssop which had medicinal purposes. The Psalmist prayed, Lord, cleanse me with hyssop that I may be clean (Psalm 51:9). Jesus came to heal our ills and to purge us of sin. The peppermint flavor reminds us that our healing came at the price of Christ’s life. When Jesus was crucified, a bystander stuck a wine-filled sponge on a branch of hyssop to give Jesus a drink. After tasting the wine, Jesus said, “Now it is finished,” and died (cf. John 19:29-30). The candy cane is meant to be broken and shared, just as Jesus’ Body is broken and shared at every Eucharist.
Lord, you came to shepherd us rightly, to live for us purely, and to die for us lovingly. Cleanse me with hyssop that I may be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. . . . A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.