Hey, kid, here’s some candy… now how about this God thing?

I noticed a disturbing trend at this year’s Santa Claus parade here in Charlottetown: there were several religious groups with floats that were giving out candy canes to kids with little religious tracts attached with cellophane tape.

Now I’m liberal (or conservative?) enough not to be particularly bothered by the mere presence of religiously-themed floats in the parade. While I’m all for separation of church and state, I figure that their inclusion leaves the door open for me to run a “heathen bastards for nuclear war” float should the mood strike me.

And I’m even prepared to not get inflamed, most of the time anyway, by religious organizations trying to recruit new believers: if that’s what your God tells you to do, who am I to argue?

But targeting kids, and targeting kids with candy seems a little low to me. Candy is a drug, and even if we set aside the fact that you should leave kids’ religious life to their parents (or, better yet, to themselves), if your particular brand isn’t strong enough to sell itself without sugar inducement, perhaps its time to look inwards, not out.


Rob MacD's picture
Rob MacD on November 30, 2004 - 03:01 Permalink

Yeah, I hate it too when religious groups try to make religious celebrations all, you know, religiousy. They should be handing out candy with 20%off coupons attached.
I say let’s give Christmas back to the Christians. And keep Festivus for the rest of us.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 03:39 Permalink

The main newspaper for Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina just ran an ad urging Christians to spend their money only where merchants display “Merry Christmas” in their advertisements.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 13:39 Permalink

Offering candy to make your doctrines more attractive doesn’t seem so different to me from offering a spanking.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 13:41 Permalink

And even if we spank our children we don’t want school teachers or random strangers to do it.

Joel's picture
Joel on November 30, 2004 - 14:00 Permalink

Hey there, first off I want to say that I enjoy your blog, it is a fun read for sure. Now on this topic I am going to have to disagree with you. If you read the little note that came with the candy cane, it explained the orgin of the candy cane and how it was tied into the Christmas story (the guy who started making them did it as a way to illustrate the Christmas story in a fun way).

The goal of these people passing out these tracts was not to cleverly “drug” the kids into becoming Christians, but to expose people (the kids and also their parents) to truth that they might not have been exposed to otherwise, it’s up to them what they do with it. I admit, I am biased on several levels (I knew some of the people handing out candy, I’m a Christian, etc.), and probably we’re all a bit biased on issues like this, but just wanted to throw in my two cents.

Kelly's picture
Kelly on November 30, 2004 - 14:58 Permalink

I too read the little red paper that accompanied the candy cane and thought it was interesting to learn the symbolism of the J shape (for Jesus) and the white & red to represent purity and blood from the cross. As Joel noted above, I (as a parent) never knew that they were originally intended to be anything but traditional holiday confection. I promptly showed my 2 year old that it was the letter J for Jesus and His birthday candy, :) so I guess they did provide one family a bit of education in line with our core beliefs anyway.

Alan's picture
Alan on November 30, 2004 - 14:59 Permalink

So when the North Rustico Fire Department throws candy on Canada Day that is an evil nationalistic plot? You make it sound like they were passing out Export A unfiltered green labels and under the guise of a “Smokes for Jesus” campaign.

And when did candy become a drug? Sugar is digestible by normal human enzymes and is not addictive in the sense that nicotine or cocaine is. Just because you do not like something someone else does does not make it “a drug”.

Besides, associating Christmas and the more general northern European Yule with sweets is millenia old. How is meddling with this cultural fact different than friggin’ with the date of Halloween based on certain churches and their misunderstanding of the culture we live in?

Nils's picture
Nils on November 30, 2004 - 16:12 Permalink

I have far less problem with this approach than I do with Christian fundamentalists passing out those vile comic books on Hallowe’en. Christmas is a celebration, our society (for good or ill) celebrates with sweets, this particular confection has religious significance … so all in all, I wouldn’t throw a flag.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 16:41 Permalink

I’d say Christian doctrine, like any conventional religion, is in essence a collection of stories, each true or false, about the universe we live in. As a general priniciple believers have a stake in promulgating these stories, while atheists consider them false, if not detrimental. This story of the origin of the candy cane seens to fall smack dab in the same category, even if the story represents one that’s fairly new and peculiar to North American christians. I take that back, of course, if the story is true.

Russ T.'s picture
Russ T. on November 30, 2004 - 16:48 Permalink

I hear the green stripe represents the religion of Islam.

Joel's picture
Joel on November 30, 2004 - 17:28 Permalink

You (oliver) could very well be right about the story of the orgin of the candy cane being false, however this is a secondary issue to Peter’s post (which was being critical of the approach of distributing candy along with an explanation of the real Christmas story).

However, I would contend that the Bible should not be painted with the same brush as this candy cane anecdote and passed off as “a collection of stories, each true or false”. Whether one believes the Bible to be true or false is their choice, however an individual’s decision on that question doesn’t change the Bible (and the truths it contains). A bit of a tangent… this discussion reminded me of a CS Lewis quote that I’ve always enjoyed…

You cannot go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.

- CS Lewis
R.'s picture
R. on November 30, 2004 - 18:29 Permalink

The opposite of every great truth — is another great truth.”
—Niels Bohr

Wayne's picture
Wayne on November 30, 2004 - 18:48 Permalink

And what about all those kids shown placing stockings over the mantle with hopes that Saint Nick will traverse down the chimney? Are the kids that live in apartments without mantles somehow offended? That is a real concern. Don’t forget the “12 days of Christmas” song where they talk about “7 Ladies Dancing”! There must be somebody feeling offended about that. (Ban that song so we can hear more of the music of the day, hate and violence, gangsta rap and rape…much safer for our kids.) Are those things we should add to the growing list of nonsense? How will we sleep at night? Somebody call Leo. What is next…seperate, isolated rooms for Christians in order to protect the children of the Godless from candy canes? Sheesh.

Jon's picture
Jon on November 30, 2004 - 19:17 Permalink

I think we all have to remember that this parade was a Christmas Parade. Not some non-religous parade, but a “CHRIST”mas parade. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth here on earth. This being the case what is so wrong with passing out literature about Jesus during a parade to celerbrate Him. Also I don’t know if you had the opportunity to read the back of the green pamphlets that were passed out. If you did, you may have noticed that it was advertising a program put on by the choir of that church (Grace Baptist) at the confed center. With ALL the money and food raised being distributed to those who are in need this Christmas season. I think that shows that these people are not only just pushing their own agenda, but are truly trying to help the community that we all live in. I hope you all have a great Christmas season. Jon

Wayne's picture
Wayne on November 30, 2004 - 19:35 Permalink

Why are we constantly reminded that we need to be more tolerant of other cultures and traditions, especially if they

Alan's picture
Alan on November 30, 2004 - 19:50 Permalink

Thanks Derek — I read those reports cited on the CBC as inconclusive. Correct me if I am wrong but they are talking about consuming much more than a candy cane to trigger the effect and even then do not agree that sugar craving is an addiction. But thank you for the effort to get primary sources.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 30, 2004 - 20:02 Permalink

Thank you for the vigorous discussion. Some thoughts:

1. Yes, candy is a drug. Forget any medical evidence: watch a four year old’s reaction to the presence or possibility of candy. It has the power of an addictive substance. The “don’t accept candy from strangers” fear that parents try to instill in kids has basis in reality.

2. The fact that Christians have to believe that Christian truths are “universal” truths does present some “getting along with non-Christians” problems. This is not unique to Christianity, of course.

3. Despite the best efforts of the religious, Christmas ceased to be an effective celebration of Christ years ago. To suggest that Christmas is still primarily about Christ is to suggest that Labour Day is still primarily a celebration of labour solidarity. Christmas is a secular celebration — more a retail necessity than anything else these days — based on a Christian folk tale (that Christian believe to be true). I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the holiday to Christmas to Christians, but you’ve lost the greater “let’s put the Christ back in Christmas” battle.

4. It’s as impossible for me to understand the importance of Christmas to Christians as it is for Christians to understand why I can say that.

5. Next year, I’ve giving out condoms at the parade.

Alan's picture
Alan on November 30, 2004 - 20:55 Permalink

Some other points for consideration:

1. I watch my kids not act like an addict and those at their choir when they have treats. I don’t care for that sort of hyperbole in relation to the normal.

2. Atheists are no different. A variety of superiority at best with less supporting evidence.

3. If you don’t believe in getting married in a Church, which is perfectly fine, why not pack in Christmas and leave it to we faithful? It would seem to be an act of greater integrity.

4. It is only impossible to understand when you don’t say what you are talking about. These are not great myteries.

5. Christ would be pleased — though I am sure you could never understand how I could think that.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 21:24 Permalink

Since we’re in touchy territory, let me emphasize that I did not choose the word “story” to subtly slight religion. I’d be just as happy to say that astrophysics and biology produces “stories.” But re: #2 above I would also say that when you accept a scientific story you are accepting one that has won a different kind of competition than popular religions win to become popular.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 21:35 Permalink

Also let’s forget the words “drug” or “bribe,” since they’re so loaded, and just say those kids were being “incentivized.” Spanking is “disincentivizing.”

Russ T.'s picture
Russ T. on November 30, 2004 - 21:37 Permalink

I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

President George H. W. Bush, during an August 27, 1987 interview by Rob Sherman, as reported in Brochure # 8286 (circa 1991) published by American Atheist Veterans.

Alan's picture
Alan on November 30, 2004 - 21:46 Permalink

That is not really fair of H.W. as atheism is just another form of faith-based thinking which has the difficulty of being based on proving a negative in an area of experience which provides few facts upon which that proof could be founded. Something of a tougher row to hoe.

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 21:51 Permalink

True, non-existence is hard to prove. Shall we all compromise at agnosticism?

oliver's picture
oliver on November 30, 2004 - 22:21 Permalink

How about we skip the beliefs in question and just think of this candy cane incident as marketing to children? To me it’s not much different than happy clown and playgrounds that McDonald’s uses to spread the idea that going to McDonalds is good. I don’t think that iconography should be in public schools, at least not neutrally or in a way that suggests endorsement.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on November 30, 2004 - 23:32 Permalink

I would just add to Alan

oliver's picture
oliver on December 1, 2004 - 00:28 Permalink

I invoked public schools thinking that Christmas is a national holiday and so like public schools ought to be nondenominational and not intermixed with religion. Is Christmas not a national holiday? If there is a national holiday called Christmas, then Christian Christmas still exists of course but is a distinct thing, such that to me the slogan “putting Christ back into Christmas” sounds like “let’s have a national religion again.” None of this matters, I suppose, to the extent the parade in question was not state-sponsored (as opposed to merely state-sanctioned), and to the extent the goverment body that approved the parade wasn’t led to believe it would be non-religious.

oliver's picture
oliver on December 1, 2004 - 00:38 Permalink

Let’s drop the child molesters and JFK assasination and talk about Ronald McDonald. That’s the degree of pernicious evil I’m talking about.

oliver's picture
oliver on December 1, 2004 - 00:40 Permalink

That was more an ironic statement about smiling clowns than a likening of the effects of christianity and corporate junkfood-mongering

oliver's picture
oliver on December 1, 2004 - 00:54 Permalink

Note you don’t have to be a royalist to celebrate Victoria Day, and a movement to give Victorian era power over Canada back to the queen probably wouldn’t be welcome at civic events.

laurent's picture
laurent on December 1, 2004 - 00:58 Permalink

Forget the candy canes! How about the seditious Eastern values cunningly inserted into those tasty cookies you get at the Golden Wok and other fine oriental eateries after a feast? It’s almost overwhelming to get three fortunes in one cookie (a dangerous plot most likely).

oliver's picture
oliver on December 1, 2004 - 01:05 Permalink

Note also that anything like persecution of christians for their religious beliefs in the West ended well before the fall of Rome, and since then it seems to have been christians of varying beliefs persecuting each other.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 1, 2004 - 01:11 Permalink

I nominate Laurent for the most appropriate response in this thread to date.

Amber's picture
Amber on December 1, 2004 - 01:32 Permalink

Replying to Laurent’s post….I was at a Chinese restaurant a few years ago with two friends…I had a major life-altering decision to make that night…and, as a joke, I playfully suggested the fortune cookie I was about to break open would hold my future and help in my decision. I painfully broke the cookie apart to announce my fate…



The cookie was empty.

Robert Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on December 1, 2004 - 04:01 Permalink

Late on this — but if we were Romans, we might be saying that these Christians had highjacked Saturnalia — the ancient winter solstice festival celebrated at this this of year. Or we could say that the Christian had highjacked an even more fun festival Lupercal (Easter to you and I) during the spring solstice.

Or we could be be a tribal society saying that Christians had highjacked “tribal values” and replaced them with a bizarre idea called a “family” where there were only two adults.

My point? What is normal is only a matter of the time we live in. All social norms shift. Smart organizations always highjack the best of the old.

al o'neill's picture
al o'neill on December 1, 2004 - 13:12 Permalink

I’m not bugged by this so much, but the idea of Jesus being an afterthought on some candy label at a Santa Claus parade makes him look like a supporting character in the Santa story. Is that what they’re after?

Mandy's picture
Mandy on December 1, 2004 - 21:35 Permalink

5. Next year, I’ve giving out condoms at the parade.

This alone is enough to drag my ass into the streets to see the parade. I’ll be there. But don’t hand out Ramses brand. Too much religious debate tied in there.

I have to agree with you Peter. It’s a bit much to tie religious scripts to a child’s candy stick. If they wanted to pass out things, why not have someone walking around giving the papers to the parents. Then, as an adult, they could choose whether or not to accept it.

But in the long run, how many of the children even stopped to look at anything but the candy in hand and for Santa and his sleigh? While we live in a society that caters to people who try to brainwash us with advertising, I would bet doughnuts to dollars most of the children didn’t pay much attention.

Jon's picture
Jon on December 2, 2004 - 05:09 Permalink

If this event which occured so disturbed you, why do you not phone the churches that did this and discuss it with them to get their side of the story instead of only voicing your own side and very strong personal opinions of how it was this evil thing. It is so easy to say things in a blog with little to no retribution, I could say I was a millionair (it would be a lie), but to be more than simple fiction and back it up is a different story. As I look through you blog Peter, I notice this is the only post in a while that has recieved much attention so you obviously hit a nerve. Is everyone going to be left standing on opinions or truths.

Russ T.'s picture
Russ T. on December 2, 2004 - 14:02 Permalink

New opinions often appear first as jokes and fancies, then as blasphemies and treason, then as questions open to discussion, and finally as established truths.”  — George Bernard Shaw

al o'neill's picture
al o'neill on December 2, 2004 - 20:46 Permalink

retribution”? Either someone needs to use a dictionary or I’m a bit creeped out…

Cameraguy's picture
Cameraguy on December 5, 2004 - 12:36 Permalink

My thoughts:

1) I nominate Wayne for the most appropriate response in this thread to date.

2) RUK says, “Christmas ceased to be an effective celebration of Christ years ago”.
I’d say Christmas continues to be an effective celebration of Christ. However, with the prospect of “heathen bastards for nuclear war” floats in the CHRISTmas parade, the celebration may unfortunately be somehow tarnished.

3) Mandy says, “If they wanted to pass out things, why not have someone walking around giving the papers to the parents. Then, as an adult, they could choose whether or not to accept it.”
I’d say that by going to the parade, the adult ALREADY chose to take their child to a celebration of Christ, and should not be upset about some literature about the candy cane.

4) RUK says: “It’s as impossible for me to understand the importance of Christmas to Christians as it is for Christians to understand why I can say that.” Peter, you don’t have to understand. But if you want to begin to understand, feel free to attend even more Christian celebrations. They can be found all across PEI, and not just around CHRISTmastime.

5) I was at the Souris CHRISTmas parade yesterday, and noticed that these candy-canes-with-literature were being passed out there as well.

There were no red-and-white striped condoms,
no heathen-bastards-for-nuclear-war floats, and
no terrorists to hijack the Shriners Plane, and fly it into Town Hall.
Thank God!

Santa's picture
Santa on December 5, 2004 - 22:30 Permalink

Santa’s List:
Wayne gets big hugs from Peter, Alan, and Leo.
Peter gets a user manual for a bong written in Farsi.
Alan gets the final word.
Oliver gets an honourary degree from Holland College.
Rob D gets Seinfeld on DVD.
Joel gets a piggy bank.
Nils gets a kiss from Peter Mansbridge.
Kelly gets an A.
Jon gets a candycane!
Amber gets a fortune.
Robert Patterson gets a membership in NORML.
Al O’Niel gets to be an extra on the next Beachcombers movie.
Mandy gets a gift certificate to Tim Hortons.
Russ T. gets the joke.
Cameraguy gets a name, handed to him on a peice of paper, tied to a stick of candy.

Innocent Bystander's picture
Innocent Bystander on December 14, 2004 - 00:18 Permalink

Christianity is first an option. For anyone who knows anything (truly) about Christianity, it’s all about free will. Why is it that the world is now so over whelmed by this way of life. We live in a land of “freedom” (supposedly). If this offends to the matter of spending so much energy to abolish a life style of Americans that will under the protection of Rights and Freedom, then what happens to our (Christian)freedom and rights. The only reason it is perceived as being “pushed upon or over loaded with” is there are some who just don’t want it. It’s your choice. It’s your “free will”. But when you try to abolish Christianity or put a Christian’s way of life in a cup and tell them they are only able to drink from that cup when no one is looking. Well now who is being imprisoned with “yucky vegetables” that you don’t want? If you don’t beleive in a Christian’s way of life then don’t. It’s your choice. I don’t believe in drugs. So I don’t go around people who do drugs. But the distinct difference is,”drugs” kill. Real Christians don’t. What is everyone so afraid of?

oliver's picture
oliver on December 14, 2004 - 03:51 Permalink

Posting porn photos in the office doesn’t kill anybody either. If you don’t get off on it, then don’t.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on December 14, 2004 - 06:54 Permalink

3) Mandy says, “If they wanted to pass out things, why not have someone walking around giving the papers to the parents. Then, as an adult, they could choose whether or not to accept it.”

I’d say that by going to the parade, the adult ALREADY chose to take their child to a celebration of Christ, and should not be upset about some literature about the candy cane.

While this Holiday is a “celebration of Christ”, I’m pretty sure a fat man in a red suit on the back of a flatbed truck is nothing more then a commercial reminder of the money we need to dosh out. Anytime I’ve gone to a Santa parade, I don’t remember getting bombarded with God. Looks like I’m glad I missed the Souris parade. It’s all about the the toy man. We’ve lost the fact it’s about Christ ages ago.

Oh boy, Tim’s certs… thankie Santa.

Melissa's picture
Melissa on December 14, 2004 - 20:55 Permalink

I LOVE BABY JESUS! I’m happy to celebrate Christmas from a Christian perspective, and everyone else is entitled to their own choices and celebration. I can respect what others choose, afterall it is their life. Simple as that. :D