During the Christmas season, the mothers read the “Legend of the Candy Cane “adapted by Pat Matuszak to their children.
“Both of our families want to take the focus off of Santa and back to Jesus’ birthday even though we do Santa and the traditional Christmas too,” said Swanson, a 1996 Marietta High School graduate married to Waters’ brother, Matt Swanson. They have four children, 9-year-old Charlie, 6-year-old Gracie, 4-year-old Sam and 4-month-old Annie.
“It brings Christmas back to the true meaning of Jesus’ birth,” Swanson said.
Through the story, children learn Christian symbolism behind the candy cane. A candy shop owner shares the legend of the candy cane and how it tells the story of Jesus.
“The candy is the shape of a cane because Jesus was a shepherd. The red symbolizes Jesus’ blood for his death; the white symbolizes the resurrection and the purity from Jesus’ blood. When you flip the candy cane upside down, it is the letter J to remind us of Jesus,” said Swanson, who started reading the book to students when she was a schoolteacher.
“I carried on the tradition with my children,” she said.
Swanson shared the tradition with Waters, also a former schoolteacher. As part of the tradition, the mothers do several activities in conjunction with the story.
As a child, Waters recalled making candy canes from pipe cleaners with small red beads. “That’s one of the activities we do. We always want to do things that the kids can have a part in and help,” Waters said. She and her husband, Jason, have two children, 4-year-old Virginia and 2-year-old Hank.
They also make candy cane sugar cookies, adding red food dye to half of the dough.
“The kids snake it together and wrap the dough together into the shape of a candy cane,” Waters said.
“I remember traditions I had growing up and it helps to unite your family and be together. Hopefully our children will pass on those traditions once they get married and they can make new traditions as well,” she said.
Swanson and Waters also incorporate nativity scenes displayed throughout their homes into the story of Jesus’ birth. Each year, Waters’ mother gives both families a nativity set. “We have (nativity scenes) that are decorative that the children are not allowed to play with to plastic ones that they are allowed to play with,” Swanson said.
Waters’s favorite set is made like a wooden puzzle. “I remember growing up that my grandfather was the only one who could ever get it back in the box without all the cheat sheets. Mom had one made for Stephanie and myself two years ago and that has been my favorite because that was a tradition that we always had. We could actually play with that one growing up,” Waters said.
“It’s fun as my kids are getting older and they ask if we’re going to do this again. They remember from the years past. It gives them something to look forward to each Christmas season,” Swanson said.