Confectionary and ritual have been partners for a very long time. Although the most immediate candy rituals that come to mind are probably part of religious (Christian or Pagan) rites like Christmas, Easter and Halloween, there are numerous ceremonies and rituals involving candy. These are but a fraction.
The Way of Tea or the Japanese Tea Ceremony involves ceremonial preparation of powdered green tea shared communally along with candy and sometimes a meal followed by candy. During the ceremony the host and guests strive for spiritual refreshment and harmony with the universe. The Japanese philosophies of art, beauty, harmony and respect are at the heart of the rituals performed. The custom originally grew from Zen Buddhist monks’ habit of drinking from a bowl during worship but has grown to embrace an appreciation and devotion to the careful craft in the utensils and preparation of the tea and candy or food.
The Buckeye tree which is associated with prosperity and abundance has been used for many years in some traditions of folk magic. The nut is a toxic meat that is part of the horse chestnut family or, Aesculus Glabra. Hoodoo rituals using the nuts involve applying mercury and wax to the nut to create a powerful charm when held. This charm is said to bring luck and wealth.
During the Mexican Day of the Dead ceremonies candy skulls are used to represent the heads of dead friends and family. Sugar is dissolved in water until it becomes thick syrup which is then poured into variegated molds. Once the sugar hardens it is decorated with colored sugar and brightly colored paper cut-ups and given a Christian name. In this way a person can have a candy skull with the name of a friend or relative so that they can “eat the skull” as is the custom that honors those passed. Sometimes Amaranth skulls are made using walnuts for the eyes and peanuts or pumpkin-seeds for the teeth.
The Sunrise Dance is a traditional coming of age ceremony for young girls of the Apache Indian tribe. The ceremony, called na’ii’ees, was a reenactment of the myth of Changing Woman. A girl’s na’ii’ees required preparation of a special ceremonial dance area. This area was covered with blankets and a ceremonial buckskin as well as baskets filled with candy and fruit.
Truly a fascinating study, the use of candy in ceremonies and rituals around the world is extraordinary. The range and scope of these rites and ceremonies is fodder for the most innovative imagination. The element of fun and caprice accompanying candy ceremonies makes them often the most pleasurable of all traditions.