We’re sitting here with a piping cup of cocoa, a partially dissolved candy cane resting inside. As we stir it in slowly, a thought forms from the deepest nook in this marshmallow we call a brain:
Where did the iconic candy cane originate from?
According to Richard and AnnaKate Hartel’s book Candy Bites: The Science of Sweets, the Christmas candy is believed to have been created in Germany around 1670 — or so the legend goes.
In the ancient city of Cologne, it’s said a church choirmaster would give the children in his choir long sticks of hard candy with a crook at the end to keep them quiet during the longer than normal Christmas services. The shape of the candy may have been inspired by a shepherd’s staff, reminding the children of the shepherds who visited baby Jesus on the first Christmas.
Photo: Peter Pham
Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, by Ace Collins, says that the iconic red stripes didn’t arrive until a couple hundred years later. In the 1920s, a candy maker from Georgia figured out how to hand-twist colors into candy canes. The candy itself, according to the book, represented the Holy Trinity: white for purity, red for Jesus’ redeeming blood, and the shape representing the shepherd’s staff.
Then, as the holiday candy became more and more popular, other candy makers began to emulate the seasonal sweet.
Here’s how a candy cane is made
So as you sit there this winter, sucking on the tail end of a candy cane, take a second to appreciate where your Christmas candy came from.
By the same token, we wonder if that Ruby Chocolate they just discovered will be this iconic in the centuries to come?