Candy canes and sugar plums
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
December 19, 2020
In the classic “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore, one of my favorite lines reads, “And visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.” As a child, this was a delicious visual for me and my sweet tooth. Dancing candies! What could be more delightful? I learned in that story that people wore caps on their heads to keep them warm through the night and Santa carried a bowl full of jelly. Well, that part was misconstrued but a fun mistaken concept. Concepts. This book always ushers in this season of anticipation.
“The Legend of the Candy Cane,” by Lori Walburg and illustrated by James Bernardin, is a story about a town, wishes of children and a man who comes to open a candy shop at Christmas. But he also brings the story of Jesus, His birth, life and His love. So with the sweets, the children and townsfolk learn a new meaning of Christmas in the form of a simple curved striped candy.
The choice of these books leads me to the classic game of Candy Land. Did you ever find the game Candy Land under your Christmas tree? Or give it as a gift to your own children? Last year Candy Land celebrated its 70th anniversary. Created in 1949, it has lived a long and amazing life with over one million boxes of this game sold for new generations every year. There is a reason this game works so well with children, both young and old. It has to do with its concept and why it was created in the first place.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, a polio pandemic gripped the world with devastating effects. Though some adults contracted the disease, it mostly hit children and hit them hard. Polio meant being in a hospital, isolated from family and the public, surrounded by bulky equipment while immobilized, either by the disease or the huge iron lung patients were put into to keep them breathing. The disease attacked nerve cells of the spinal cord, affecting the head, neck, legs and diaphragm. Polio was their COVID-19. It wove its way through the population and there was no protection from it. There was much fear and parents kept their children inside and isolated from others to protect them.
From her San Diego hospital bed, teacher Eleanor Abbott spent time in the children’s ward as she battled polio herself. She watched their struggles to breathe, experiencing loneliness and separation from their families. Boredom and despair was rampant. Seeing these children suffering, Abbott searched for an idea that would help entertain and give them moments to step out of their reality into an adventure of imagination. In this search, Candy Land was born.
Repeating colorful tiles wove across the game board as a meandering rainbow, with candy delights at every turn in the path. Young children were just as successful as older ones. And even when the child could not move in reality, their gingerbread marker could, through lollipop forests and gumdrop valleys. The game could be played quickly during short times out of the iron lung or seated momentarily up in bed. Time was snatched for fun where limitations didn’t matter. When only the movement of the eyes was left, the child could still move across the board with a nurse moving the marker. The children were given a journey to travel in a life that stood still, unencumbered past tasty treats of childhood dreams.
If you scrutinize the process you will realize that the players do not influence the outcome. There is no strategy, no skills required. And the winner is determined at the end of the card shuffling. But winning was never the goal of this game. It was always the journey.
I end with “The Christmas Wish” by Lori Evert. Little Anja travels through the cold land of a snowy north so she can be one of Santa’s elves. A series of wildlife help her along the way. What is your Christmas wish this year? In the movie “The Bishop’s Wife” the reverend starts his Christmas sermon by saying, “ You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe… all the stockings are filled except one...the stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday. Don’t let us forget that...Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share of kindness, warm hearts and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts on earth.” And as any good beauty contestant would say, I personally wish for peace on earth. May we find that peace.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all. Good books. Good reading.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.