The history of Christmas candy canes starts in Germany in the 17th century with some restless children and an imaginative choir master. In 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral decided he’d give the kids in his choir some candy sticks to keep them happy during the long Christmas services. He bent straight white candy sticks into the now-familiar “J” shape to represent a shepherd’s staff and remind them that Jesus is the good shepherd. The custom soon spread throughout Europe.
But it took a long time for the custom to reach America. The first documented example of the use of candy canes to celebrate Christmas occurred in 1847, when a German-Swedish immigrant by the name of August Imgard hung the candy canes from the branches of a Christmas tree.
At this time, candy canes were still all-white. It wasn’t until about 50 years later that the first red-and-white striped variety appeared. No historical records exist to show who or why the stripes were added, but prior to 1900, Christmas cards only showed all-white candy canes. After that year, striped candy canes started appearing.
Around this same time, it’s thought that candy makers started adding peppermint flavors 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 stripes are still the most popular.
Read more about Christmas Candy Canes.