Birth of the Candy Cane:
Around the seventeenth century, European-Christians began to adopt the use of Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations. They made special decorations for their trees from foods like cookies and sugar-stick candy. The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar-sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s staff. The all-white candy canes were given out to children during the long-winded nativity services.
The clergymen’s custom of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America. The canes were still white, but sometimes the candy-makers would add sugar-roses to decorate the canes further.
The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when a German immigrant called August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.
About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavours then became the traditional favourites.
Sweet Secrets of the Candy Cane
There are many other legends and beliefs surrounding the humble candy cane. Many of them depict the candy cane as a secret symbol for Christianity used during the times when Christian were living under more oppressive circumstances. It was said that the cane was shaped like a “J” for Jesus. The red-and-white stripes represented Christ’s blood and purity. The three red stripes symbolized the Holy Trinity. The hardness of the candy represented the Church’s foundation on solid rock and the peppermint flavor represented the use of hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament. There is no historical evidence to support these claims, quite the contrary, but they are lovely thoughts.
A Catholic priest called Gregory Keller invented a machine to automate candy cane production during the 1950’s.