Rachel Paige
December 19, 2014 1:43 pm

You’re not on Christmas break quite yet, so how about before checking out entirely, you settle in for one last lesson. You’re gonna want to hear this one: it’s about candy canes.

Come December, candy canes are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere — literally. You see them all over Christmas trees, and taped to presents, and I remember the days when my elementary school teachers would hand them out as “gifts” for a job well done.

But, why the red and white? Why the cane shape? Why are they hung on Christmas trees? It’s time we got some answers! Or, at least as close to answers as we’re able to get. The truth is, the history is a little muddled — but super interesting.

One hyper-common answer — which I’ve heard a million times — is that the candy cane is supposed to be religiously symbolic. “It’s a J for Jesus!” etc. etc. While that’s a nice fable, there’s sadly not much back up cred to that story.

Another popular account suggests that the candy cane was invented by a candy maker in Indiana — who was trying to cram a whole lot of religious symbols into one small piece of candy. Reality is, the history of the candy cane probably goes back a lot further than the existence of the state of Indiana.

Many stories of the candy cane’s origin point to Germany, so let’s focus our sights there. Perhaps the MOST historic version of the candy cane origin story suggests the candy cane started in Germany way back in 1670, where a choir teacher used candy sticks (usually straight) to keep restless choir children occupied during the long services — he had them shaped into canes so they could mimic a shepherd’s staff, and be somewhat justifiable in church. There’s also the account that all the candy cane credit should go to the German (Germany again!) immigrant who “introduce[d] the Christmas tree to Ohio in 1847.”

At this rate though, we could all stake a claim at the creation of the candy cane. Without any solid documentation, there’s no way to prove who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s worth noting that we can trace the first person to ever hashtag, #selfie, but this candy cane saga continues to remain a mystery . . . but I get that it’s hard to document candy trends from the late 17th century. 

There is one story that provides a little hard evidence though, about the candy canes early 20th century days. In 1919, candy maker Bob McCormack started producing candy canes from his candy company in Georgia to be sold in local shops. Back then, candy makers actually had to bend the cane shape into the candy, which was hard tedious work and many of the candy pieces broke in the process. But, McCormack’s brother-in-law, invented a machine that would bend the candy without it breaking, and suddenly every single cane came out perfect.

Maybe somewhere stuffed in some box in a German attic there’s actual proof as to where these red and white cane-shaped candies come from. But for now we’ll fill our heads with sugar plums and these delicious candy cane myths Think of it as a choose your own adventure type of thing — we’re choosing Germany in the 1670s because it sounds historic and important.

Also, some candy canes ARE still made by hand and it’s a fully epic process. Enjoy!

Images via here and here.

Advertisement