Posted by: alexhickey | December 23, 2021

Hard Candy Christmas


This afternoon I opened a tin of Old Fashioned Candy Mix. You may know the type. In part, it’s what Dolly Parton sings about in Hard Candy Christmas.  She also includes candy canes and lollipops as hard candy.  The phrase hard candy Christmas refers to times when things were tough and people had little more than hard candy for Christmas. These little sugary lumps remind us that life can be simultaneously hard and sweet.

   Waiting inside the tin were oval-shaped pale green candies with a bubbled surface which look like an unripened raspberry. Around them were red, green and white pinwheels, rectangular amber ones with rounded edges wrapped in a red stripe and tapered at each end. There were blackish coloured ones which suggested licorice but, as everyone who has eaten hard Christmas candy knows, when you eat it your mouth will fill with a most strange flavour that is supposed to be grape.

   The tin contained dime-sized round, tubular candies filled with multi-coloured centres, rainbow ribbon shapes, and dumpy humbugs in a variety of colours. Some were deep purple, moss green, brilliant translucent yellow, pale pink, lime green, ruby red, and white with candy apple red stripes.  If you looked closely you’d see semi-transparent orange ones and an occasional white one with blue stripes.

   During my childhood these were a staple at Christmas, next in importance to Gala apples imported from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. While each of the candies was savoured for taste, texture, and shape, the best part was not what was visible on top of the tin but what was waiting at the bottom.  There, candy dust, sugar, broken bits and slivers had congealed, blended into a taste extraordinaire; a taste equal to none, a blend of flavours that played games with your taste buds as they spelled out Christmas in your mind.  Very few things could compare to rolling chunks of broken candies over your tongue, around the mouth and then hesitating to swallow in order to prolong the sweet sugary nectar experience.

   While these candies are a visual feast, they are never intended to be gazed upon for hours or adored for their colours, textures and memories.  No sir!  They are meant to be eaten, savoured like fine wine.  Prolonged looking brings on nostalgic memories, storytelling and causes severe cases of salivation.  Each one evokes warm, safe, comfortable feelings associated with positive recollections of things past.  Christmas 2021 is a time to seek out those warm feelings and spread them around as much as possible.

   By now I am on my fifth hard candy, letting it melt on my tongue.  Soon, very soon, I will crack it into small bits then move onto number six. It is an indulgence of childhood, of innocent days and nights when snowflakes really did fall aimlessly from the sky and catching them on your tongue was a favourite sport. They provoke the hearing of voices of parents, grandparents, childhood friends, all babbling in the background of one’s mind embodying comfort and belonging, and most of all, warmth.

   So, where does that take us? I know where it takes me. It leads me on a journey to remember, celebrate, and talk about the things that have brought me ‘warmth’ during the Christmas season.  Part nostalgia, part memory, part fantasy, all momentary solace to the events which surround us.  It is a time to draw upon experiences which have given us strength and pleasure, good things and occurrences which have impressed themselves upon our minds and woven themselves into the fabric of how we view our past. It is a time to bring them forward, a time to draw down on that investment; to use the strength we’ve embodied in them to buoy our battered spirits. Whether it is a favourite song, a carol that becomes an ear worm, a story often told this time of year or a fun memory of the season, bring it forth with a smile.  It might be a childhood doll, a particular Christmas tree or a favourite fruit cake that springs to mind.  Whatever it is, lean on it, share it, tell everyone you know who will listen and share a bit of your warmth with them. Most likely, they will share something in return.

   This Christmas, in our smaller than anticipated gatherings, let’s turn to those family members and friends within our bubbles, hold their hands, feel their tremors, their fear and uncertainty then give them a hug.  Share your warmth with each of them.  That hug with its shared body heat and the security of a pair of encircling arms may be all they need to bring their Christmas into focus.  It may become the memory of a lifetime.  Hold someone close and tell them how much you care. Hold hands and watch the snow fall in your neighbourhood, listen to your favourite music, recall familiar stories.  Don’t hesitate to retell a fondly remembered tall tale over again for it’s in the telling that we remember, that we preserve and carry on our culture and identity. 

   Share a drink, a special meal, eat familiar snacks, call an old friend and reminisce, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, stare out the window and think of others. Pick up the phone and call that neighbour you haven’t seen for a while. Call someone who lives alone. Ask them about their favourite candies during Christmas. If they don’t have any, perhaps a door-drop can be arranged. We have so much in our treasure chests that are memorable, things that make us feel warm inside.  Reach in and pull them out.  This is the year to fortify ourselves and those we cherish with our own strength. Reach out to those objects and people that make you feel good. If you have a tin of Old Fashioned Hard Candy to lean on or share, then so much the better.  This may be a hard candy Christmas for many of us!

   Merry Christmas to all and a firm goodbye to 2021!


  1. Nice thoughts Alex. I’m sure you tried a Pot Of Gold chocolate and put it back because it was too hard leaving your teeth marks as if no one would notice. Oh well,hope you have a Christmas as merry as the times allow. Bud

  2. Merry Christmas and thank you for the encouragement …..clever approach.

  3. Thank you Alex for some wonderful Christmas hard candy memories and the picture, I can almost taste that humbug!

  4. Alex, what a wonderful memory. Merry Christmas to you and Hazel and a Safe and Happy New Yesr!

  5. Beautiful Never gets old… I remember the Hard candy bucket, and kept it for years and now I believe I passed it in to my daughter… (Button tin) but the memory hangs on, and I can taste them in my memory. Thank You

    My roots are in Mose Ambrose.. My father Joseph T Miles left in the late 1930s, served overseas with the Royal Navy)radio operator after WW11 he came back to settle in Gander and worked Gander Air Radio until retirement. My father’s mother, my Grandmother, Mary Ann Miles (nee Bullen born 1881) left Mose Ambrose 1945 to move to Halifax to live with her son Charles Miles she passed away in Halifax at the age of 105 years. Her husband George K. Miles Passed away 1938.

    Terry Miles, Middle Sackville, NS B4E 0A6

    On Thu, Dec 23, 2021 at 11:25 AM All Things St. Jacques, NL <> wrote:

    alexhickey posted: ” This afternoon I opened a tin of Old Fashioned > Candy Mix. You may know the type. In part, it’s what Dolly Parton sings > about in Hard Candy Christmas. She also includes candy canes and lollipops > as hard candy. The phrase hard candy Christmas r” >

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