The origin of the Candy Cane

Posted On December 2, 2006

Filed under Christmas Candy Canes

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The legend of the Candy Cane begins in Cologne, Germany around 1670.

The choirmaster of the Cologne’s Cathedral had the idea of handing out ‘sugar sticks’ to keep the children quiet during the long Christmas Eve service, and he bent to sticks to imitate the shepherds crook, a symbol of the Bishop. At the time the ‘canes’ were completely white and did not have any flavoring.

As Christmas became a more “family” oriented holiday in Europe, people all over the world began to decorate more and more for the holidays. The all-white candy canes were a natural to be used as ornaments on Christmas Trees, and they often were used as decorations in other ways.

The first reference to the Candy Cane in America comes from the 1840s where it was reported that a German American immigrant decorated his house in Wooster, Ohio. Once again the canes were described as ‘pure white’.

Exactly when the canes developed their familiar red and white stripes no one knows for sure. In all pictures from the 19th Century, the canes are pure white. In pictures taken after 1900 the strips were present. It is also believed that around that time spearmint and wintergreen flavoring was added to the Candy Cane.

Sources for the History of the Candy Cane >

UPDATE > Some scholars believe a confectioner developed candy canes to represent Jesus. The shape of the “J” was for Jesus, or the shepherd’s staff. The white color symbolized purity, while the red stripes indicated blood. Peppermint is similar to hyssop, the Middle Eastern mint mentioned in the Bible.