A candy cane is a hard cane-shaped candy stick. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint; however, it is also made in a variety of other flavors and colored stripes, and has long been a symbol associated with Christmas.
The candy cane dates back over 300 years and was originally a straight, hard, and all-white candy stick. Around the seventeenth century, Christians in Europe 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 The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes dates as far back as 1670 when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s staff, then handed them out to children during nativity services. This custom of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America.
The peppermint candy with red stripes first appeared in the mid-19th century in the Swedish town of Granna, and striped candy canes in the early 20th century. The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when August Imgard, a German immigrant, decorated the Christmas tree in his Ohio home with candy canes. It’s not clear who came up with the idea of striping candy canes, but it’s known that Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes, where Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes.
It’s about that same time that candy makers began adding peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes, which grew to become traditional favorite flavors.
In the 1950’s a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller invented a machine to automate candy cane production.
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