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History of the Candy Cane

People have been enjoying candy canes as far back as the 17th century. Originally, they weren’t “canes” at all and weren’t associated with Christianity or the holidays, but today they have strong symbolism for many people.

In their original form, candy canes were simple white sugar sticks made by hand by local confectioners and enjoyed by people throughout Europe. The distinctive “J” shape associated with candy canes wasn’t adoped until 1670. Legend has it that the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany bent some straight sticks into canes to represent a sheperd’s crook and gave them to children to keep them busy and quiet during church services, thus providing the first Christian symbolism associated with the popular treat.

The trademark red and white stripes and peppermint flavor weren’t added until many years later, and there is no historic documentation to explain why candy canes suddenly started sporting color and a new spice. The stripes and spice both started appearing in the 20th century. A popular Internet email credits the invention of the candy cane to a candymaker in Indiana, although the treat was invented long before Indiana even existed, so it’s unknown whether there was such a person who deliberately added the stripes and flavor to symbolize Christ’s suffering and the spices brought by the wise men. But somehow the appearance and flavor of candy canes changed in the early 20th century and have stayed that way since.

Today many people look at candy canes as a Christian symbol of the holidays and a remembrance of why we celebrate Christmas. The following poem is one example of how the candy cane legend has become associated with Jesus Christ.

A significant symbol of Christmas
Is the simple candy cane.
It’s shape is the crook of the shepherd,
One of the first who came.
The lively peppermint flavor is
The regal gift of spice.
The white is Jesus’ purity.
The red is sacrifice.
The narrow stripes are friendship
And the nearness of his love.
Eternal, sweet compassion,
A gift from God above.
The candy cane reminds us all
how much God loved and cared.
And like His Christmas gift to us
It’s meant to be broken and shared

Reprinted with permission from The Candy Cane Legend on HubPages by lisa42