Candy Canes are closely associated with the Christmas season but how did that come about? A common folkloric story is that in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to quiet the children’s noise at Christmas Eve service asked a local candy maker for some “sugar sticks” for them. In order to justify the distribution during worship service he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus. In addition, he used the all-white color of the candy canes to teach children about the belief in a sinless Jesus. From Germany, candy canes spread to other parts of Europe and eventually America, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity and became associated with Christmas.
The first documented use of candy canes to celebrate Christmas occurred in 1847, when August Imaged, a German-Swedish immigrant, from Wooster, Ohio decorated his Christmas tree with paper ornaments and candy canes. The solid white candy canes were on Christmas cards by the early 1900’s with the first read and white canes made at the turn of the 19th century. Peppermint flavor was also added as a traditional flavor at that time.
Some claim that the cane was originally shaped like a “J” for “Jesus” and that the red-and-white stripes represented Christ’s blood and purity, although there is no historical evidence for this. In any event, today candy canes are available in many different shapes, colors, and flavors, but the red and white peppermint candy cane remains the classic favorite. The production of around 2 billion candy canes annually makes it the number one non-chocolate candy sold in the month of December, with 90 percent of sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas.