History of the Candy Cane

christmas candy cane ornamentChristmas candy canes are as familiar during the holidays as images of Santa Claus and the baby Jesus. But how did they come to be such a popular holiday treat?

The history of the candy cane can be traced back to Germany. In 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral bent straight white candy sticks into the now-familiar “J” shape to represent a shepherd’s staff and gave them to children in the choir to keep them happy during long Christmas services. The idea worked well, and the custom soon spread throughout Europe.

Candy canes didn’t come to the United States until much later, and then they were no longer just for keeping children quiet during holiday church services. August Imgard, a German immigrant, is credited as the first person to decorate his Christmas tree with candy canes in 1847.

At this time, candy canes were still all-white, just as they had been when the German choirmaster first started giving them out. The now-familiar red-and-white striped ones didn’t appear until much later, around the year 1900. No historical records exist to explain why the stripes were added, or who added them, but modern candy cane poems now credit an unnamed candymaker with adding red stripes to represent Jesus’ blood. All that is really known is that after 1900, striped candy canes became commonplace and they’ve kept their appearance since then.

Around the same time, candy makers started adding peppermint to their candy canes, and this soon became the norm. Now candy canes can be found in all sizes and flavors, from green apple to chocolate, but the familiar red and white peppermint variety are still the most popular.

More on Christmas candy canes.

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