It’s that time again, a time where Christmas spirit and cheer is everywhere around you. Wreaths adorn many doors, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is playing on every single radio, and, that’s right, people are decorating their Christmas trees with none other than candy canes.
The hooked peppermint treat is all over the place. You probably can’t help but wonder: Hm, I wonder how candy canes came to be. And also: Why do we buy them on Christmas? These questions are probably why you stumbled upon this post, to find out more about the sweet history of these Christmas candies. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the Christmas edition of the histories of your favorite sweets.
Myth or Truth?
There is much debate about the exact origin of the candy cane, but one prevalent theory goes back to 1607 and claims that a choirmaster in Cologne Cathedral in Germany gave out white sugar sticks to his young singers to keep them quiet during a religious ceremony. He then bent the sugar sticks to resemble a shepherd’s hook to go along with the religious proceedings.
Around the 17th century, pulled sugar was quite popular in Europe, making the theory more creditable. Although, another belief is that Germans in general began to add hooks to the candy in order to hang them up on Christmas trees. While the early history is rocky, one thing we know for sure is how candy canes became a staple of Christmas in the United States.
Modern Candy Canes
A debunked myth is that an Indiana confectioner added a hook to the peppermint sticks, creating a “J” for Jesus. But we know that white peppermint sticks have been around since the 17th century, a time where Indiana didn’t exist.
The first true documented candy canes in the U.S. appear in about 1847, when German-Swedish immigrant August Imgard used the candy to decorate his Christmas tree. However, the classic red and white striped peppermint treats we know today did not exist yet. Instead, the cane was just white.
As the 20th century dawned, companies began to produce candy canes with the iconic red stripes. The following decades experienced an explosion of candy cane sales at Christmas time. Candy cane producers originally made the peppermint treats by hand. However, George Keller invented the automated process in the 1950s. Georgia based candy company, Bob’s Candies, were the first to mass produce the peppermint treat.
Candy Canes and Christmas
There are multiple theories about how candy canes are associated with Christmas. The crook of the cane either resembles a shepherd’s hook or a “J” for Jesus. The white of the candy cane can represent the purity of Christ, while the red stripes the blood of Christ during crucifixion. Another suggestion is that the tree small stripes on the candy cane (which alternate with the bigger ones) represent the Holy Trinity. Lastly, the peppermint flavor is said to hail from the hyssop herb, a plant symbolizing Christ’s purity and his sacrifices.
Candy Canes Today
About 2 billion candy canes are produced annually, and they are an essential feature of every Christmas holiday, along with cookies, hot chocolate, and chocolate. Today, candy canes don’t only come in white and red and peppermint flavor. You can get rainbow candy canes, Sour Patch Kids flavored candy canes, pastel candy canes, even bacon candy canes! We at Bulk Candy Store do have a good selection of candy cane candies (including candy cane popcorn!) to choose from this Christmas holiday, so you should totally take a look and see what best fits your needs this holiday.
If you loved this cool candy history blog, you’re bound to love our History of Candy Tour! You can find out about the histories of all your favorite sweets and how candy even came to be. Don’t hesitate to check it out!