Author’s Note: This piece has been edited and now appears in “Angel Songs, 20 Christmas Short Stories and Poems, plus Recipes” by Dona Watson. Click here for more info.
I thought that today I’d try something different. Why not take the true story of how candy canes came to be and write a little piece of fiction based on historical fact? Sounds like a good idea, right?
Let me take this opportunity to say that I greatly admire writers of historical fiction. I think this has to be the hardest genre to write. Sooo much research to do — in addition to the normal hard work required to create great fiction. I’ve said for a long time that I really don’t want to write historical fiction and as short as this little piece is, it reminded me exactly why. Because it’s stinking hard. That’s why.
So, to all of you historical novelists out there, and particularly those who combine fantasy fiction with historical time periods (you get to rebuild a world while building an alternate world at the same time. Yikes!), my hat is off to you!! (Please don’t judge me.)
by D.L. Watson
Abelard Muench tugged the front of his hood down against the cold German morning and frowned, thinking back to Christmas Eve the year before — and the children. As a choirmaster, the Living Nativity was his crowning achievement of the year. While he loved the children, and was in fact a favorite of theirs in return, the beautiful Christmas Eve mass was always disrupted by the little dears who found it hard to be quiet and still, especially so late at night.
He had been trying to think of a solution for days and now he was running out of time. Christmas Eve was only two weeks away. The portly man shivered and tucked his hands into the sleeves of his brown monk’s robe.
“Guten morgen, Herr Muench.”
The monk nodded to the glassmaker as he hurried by, anxious to get out of the early morning cold. No sooner had he passed the merchant, however, the shop next door caught his eye. The candy maker. Of course! He pushed open the door to the little shop and let himself in.
“Guten morgen.” The confectioner beamed. “What brings you into my shop this morning?”
“Candy,” the monk replied with a crooked grin.
Abelard explained his plan to the shopkeeper, who assured him that he could make the candy exactly like the monk wanted and would bring a bagful to him later that week. The holy man left the shop with a smile on his face. Surely this would solve his problem.
• • •
In his chambers, Abelard donned his choirmaster robes in anticipation of the Christmas Eve mass. On his way out the door, he scooped up the bag of candy dropped off by the candy maker. He crossed himself and breathed a quick prayer, hoping his plan would work.
Once the volunteers playing the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the others were in place, the time came for the choir to file in. While they were moving into place, Abelard turned to the congregation and called all the children forward. As he greeted them, he held up one of the candy sticks.
Immediately, every little eye focused on him and the candy.
“Do you know what this is?” he kindly asked them.
One little girl about four years old, twirling her blond hair around one finger, answered in a near whisper, “Candy?”
“Ja!” He nodded his head. “It is a candy stick. Do you see the white and red stripes wrapping around it?”
The children nodded solemnly.
“Do you know what the white stands for?”
The children all shook their heads in unison.
“The white stands for the sinless life our Savior led. As the Son of God, Jesus’ heart was pure and free from sin.”
The children continued to stare at the candy as if it would disappear.
“Do you see the crook on the top end of the stick? That is to remind you of the shepherds,” he gestured to two men in rough robes standing next to a wooly lamb, “who came to see baby Jesus the night he was born.”
He looked at the children with a big smile. “I want each one of you to have one of these candy canes to help you remember the story of Jesus’ birth.”
Abelard passed out the candy sticks to the children, placing a hand on the head of each one and blessing them in turn. After all the children had been served and returned to their parents, the monk turned to the choir. Taking his place in front of the singers, he raised his arms for the first note, then paused and smiled.
Behind him, not a single sound came from any of the children. He could just imagine each one of them happily sucking on their sweet treat. As he led the choir in their first song, he couldn’t stop smiling to think of the happy children. In addition, this was bound to be the best, least interrupted Christmas Eve mass ever.
This story is part of a Writing Challenge I have undertaken to write something every day in the month of December on a pre-selected list of topics. Photographer Jacqueline Ashford is keeping pace with me on the same list of topics, her with a camera and me with a keyboard. You can see Jacqueline’s gorgeous photos here. We’re having way too much fun with this mutual challenge. (You can see the list of topics here.)
Tomorrow’s Topic: Tree Topper (Yes, I’m a day behind. I’ll try to catch up when I can.)