Did you know that the candy cane has had a long history?
The classic peppermint flavor of the candy cane has been around for 600 years, but the original candy canes didn’t have the now iconic hook but were just straight sticks. In 1640, a German choirmaster decided to change things up by curving the shape to look more like a shepherd’s staff, resulting in the candy cane shape we all know and love today.
About this same time, Christmas trees became popular Christmas decorations and candy canes were part of those decorations. If your family is like my family, there’s a good chance that you have candy canes on your own tree today. (We put up our tree on Thanksgiving weekend.) That hook in the candy cane makes it easy to hang those candy canes on the tree.
The candy cane was first introduced to America in 1847 by a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard.
One legend suggests that an Indiana-based candy-maker shaped the peppermint stick into a “J” shape to represent Jesus, with the white stripe symbolizing the purity of his birth and the red stripe later added to acknowledge the blood he shed on the cross. This origin claim has been debunked, because white candy and peppermint sticks existed in Germany since the 1600s. It may be possible though that this Indiana-based candy-maker attached this symbols to the candy cane to make a deeper connection with the holiday season.
Since candy canes were originally made by hand, they were sold out of local candy shops. It wasn’t until the 1950s a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller invented a machine that could make candy canes that curve automatically. Once automated, candy canes became a popular Christmas confection. Every year, 1.76 billion candy canes are sold and ninety percent of them are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In 2012, Geneva pastry chef Alain Roby broke his third Guinness World Record by creating the world’s longest candy cane. This candy cane was 51 feet long. The previous record had been 38 feet.
Though other flavors do exist, the most popular flavor is remains peppermint flavored ones with red stripes on white.
Do you have candy canes around your house this holiday season?