The Shepherd Boy and the Candy Cane

The Southeast Alaska Catholic
December 2011

By B. Kay Baird, St. Gregory Nazianzen Parish, Sitka

Folk-lore has many tales of the origin of the candy cane,
I wish I knew the truth of it; sweet mystery it remains.
So I’ll tell a little story I made up the other day
Of the beginning of the candy cane; this is what I’d say.

Jimmy was a happy boy of days not so long ago.
His life was spent with sheep and friends and so my story goes.
Jimmy passed his church as he ran his flock from pasture broad and steep.
He’d bow before the Cross of Christ and pray “Lord, safety for my sheep.”

This was noticed by old Fran–This boy with his shepherd’s staff.
She loved how hard he worked, yet how easily he laughed.
‘Twas on Christmas day just after the breaking of the dawn,
When Jimmy herded his flock past the church in the little town.

Two ladies prayed their beads as the priest was getting ready.
When Jimmy beheld the Christmas tree standing tall and steady.
He smelled the cookies and twirled the fruit laughing out loud with joy,
“This tree has enough treats for every girl and boy!”

Old granny called, “That’s for the young who attend here today,
Take your noisy sheep boy, and go away, go away!”
Yet Fran, plump and sweet with a twinkle in her eyes,
Smiled, “Stay Jimmy; pray with us–today promises a surprise!”

“I will attend,” said Jimmy as the flock moved to a vacant lot.
“My dogs will tend the sheep as I celebrate,” he thought.

The gracious love of God truly blessed the humble place.
Peace, love and joy shown from every face.
With “Merry Christmas to you!” and “May your year be bright!”
The children gathered ’round the tree to see the happy sight.

Fran came bustling in with a basket on her arm.
Her floppy stockings only added to her charm.
“Look here, look here! I have something special to say,
A reminder to think of Jesus on this holy day!”

Lifting a candy cane she smiled, “the souls of the holy family would be the purest white.
Only holiness could embrace baby Jesus on that Special night.
On the cane are stripes, stripes of brilland red.
Recalling the precious blood our Savior later shed.”

Fran passed out the lovely treats to all that Christmas day.
The biggest cane went to Jimmy as they heard her say,
“Jimmy, keep your faith alive–hold fast to your staff.
Draw your friends to God and always keep your laugh!
For Jesus is our good shepherd–with his staff he draws us in,
His pasture for us is heaven…as he frees us from our sins.”

And so this shepherd boy grew and as a man became,
A bishop to a larger flock; he called them each by name.
Each time he passed the cross as he started his busy day;
“Keep your people free from Sin,” he would always pray.
The tree was trimmed each year in only red and white.
The Christmas tree bowed down with canes to old Fran’s delight!

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