The History Of How Candy Canes Became A Symbol Of Christmas

The sight of red and white stripes immediately conjures up images of candy canes, one of the most famous Christmas symbols around, but how did a stick of peppermint flavoured candy become such an integral part of a Christian (or pagan depending on what you believe) holiday? There are many theories from mean German choirmasters to religious symbolism in the extreme, but all of them converged to make that simple sweet treat we love today.

In a whimsical tale from 1670 in Cologne, Germany, said that a clever choirmaster, eager to hush the babble of the children in the audience during the Christmas Eve Mass, sought the assistance of a local confectioner for some "sugar sticks." Faced with the challenge of justifying the distribution of sweets during Mass, the choirmaster ingeniously suggested adding a crook to the top of each stick. This cunning addition served a dual purpose – helping children recall the shepherds who paid a visit to baby Jesus and offering a subtle lesson on the sinless life of Christ through the snowy hue of the candy canes.

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From their beginnings in Germany, these candy canes spread across Europe. During Nativity reenactments, these sugary delights were generously shared, weaving themselves into the festive fabric of Christmas.

The Story Behind The Iconic Colour

In the festive chronicles of Christmas history, the credit for using the candy cane as decor for the first time dates back to 1847 and one August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant hailing from Wooster, Ohio.  

Up until the early 1900s  candy canes were all pure white but as we stepped into the 20th century, the candy canes donned their iconic red and white stripes. This was around the same time that peppermint flavouring came on the scene and with some shrewd marketing, became the default flavour of Christmas. 

The colours of candy canes may potentially hold a religious significance, where the red symbolises the blood of Christ and the white represents the body of Christ. The iconic three stripes on the candy cane could be interpreted as a reflection of the holy trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack, hailing from Atlanta, innovatively introduced candy canes as festive treats for his loved ones during the Christmas season. Initially, these red and white confections were meticulously crafted by hand, requiring considerable manual effort. The 1950s marked a turning point when Gregory Keller, Bob's brother-in-law, ingeniously devised a machine tailored for automating candy cane production. This invention revolutionised the process, eliminating the labour-intensive nature of crafting these seasonal sweets. Bob's Candies, underpinned by Keller's ingenuity, emerged as the pioneering company to globally mass-produce and distribute candy canes. Today, with over eight decades of operation, Bob's Candies stands as a stalwart in the confectionery industry.

The rest as they say is history and candy canes have become an immovable part of Christmas tradition. Their red and white forms adorn most holiday decorations and are a symbol of joy and the everlasting Yuletide spirit.