This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for December 26, 2019, East Bernard, Texas.
As we began to prepare for Christmas last week, my wife and I discussed stocking stuffers, including what kind of candy to put in the family stockings we recently hung. Of the various kinds of candy St. Nicholas and our parents provided for us at Christmas, we both had the same favorites. While my brother liked solid chocolate Santa Clauses best, Peggy and I both preferred chocolate-covered marshmallow Santas. At Easter, the wife and I both preferred Peeps to any other Easter candy. Our conclusion from the discussion is that we both love marshmallows!
We know what kind of candy our granddaughters like, so it’s a given their kind will always find a home in their stockings. But why not get the kind we like, too?
Chocolate-covered marshmallow Santas are found just about everywhere, Walmart, Dollar General, etc. But pure marshmallows in Christmas shapes are hard to find. The orange-colored, peanut-shaped marshmallow candies are readily available, but orange peanuts for Christmas?
Well, these orange, peanut-shaped pieces of marshmallow candy are as American as apple pie. They’ve been around since the 1800’s and were originally sold as unwrapped “penny candy” in Five and Dime stores all over America. Those of you older folks like me remember they were called “Circus Peanuts” and had an artificial banana flavor. No one knows for sure why they were called “Circus Peanuts,” but we think the fact they were first sold at circuses as penny candy was the reason.
The marshmallow itself was first created by the ancient Egyptians in 2000 B.C., and considered a delicacy fit only for the royal family and the gods. It was made from the sap of the mallow plant (Athaea Officinatia), which grew in marshes and has been used in herbal medicine for centuries as a cure for sore throat and coughs, and for healing wounds. In the 1800’s, French confectioners discovered they could create marshmallows from gelatin just as easily as from the mallow root.
Today’s marshmallows and marshmallow candy are made with gelatin, sugar, water, corn starch, and a whipping agent like egg whites. Vegans could eat the treat made from the mallow plant, but gelatin, coming from animal sources, is a vegan no-no.
In the 1800’s, Circus Peanuts were a seasonal candy, sold only in the spring, but in recent years, it has been available year-round. I discovered that the Circus Peanuts makers do create the banana-flavored goodies at Easter in pastel colors and in the shape of bunnies and Easter eggs, but no Santas at Christmas, and no green and red peanuts. Just orange.
When you are planning for Christmas stockings, this is a very momentous issue! Do you buy regular white marshmallows and make snowmen out of them, or do you decide you can tolerate orange-colored peanuts at Christmas. You can see that such a profound issue required a lot of time spent in discussion.
Finally, I made the decision! I ordered two bags of Circus Peanuts on Amazon, made of marshmallows and tasting like artificial bananas, and they will go in our stockings! Case closed.
Of course, Christmas is not about stockings full of candy and other goodies, yet it should be a time of fun and joy, and I believe we should never let the child with joyful wonderment in us die! Such fun and delight as Christmas stockings filled with candy and fruit bring us joy, as we celebrate the greater reason for joy, the birth of Christ, the Savior of the world. We can even imagine Mary and Joseph experiencing some of this worldly fun and joy, as they might have sung to Baby Jesus and made him homemade toys to play with. There is an old tradition that the shepherds brought Baby Jesus a ball as a birthday gift. So I’m inclined to encourage earthly fun and gladness during the Christmas season, but always remembering and emphasizing that we are celebrating the birth of God’s Son, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and pastor, and author of the book, It Must Be the Noodles.