Candy cane

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Candy cane
Candy-Cane-Classic thumbnail.png
A traditional candy cane
Alternative namesPeppermint stick
Place of originGermany
Created byUnknown[1]
Main ingredientsSugar, flavoring (often peppermint)

A candy cane is a cane-shaped stick candy often associated with Christmastide,[2] as well as Saint Nicholas Day.[3] It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint, but they also come in a variety of other flavors and colors.


A record of the 1837 Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, where confections were judged competitively, mentions "stick candy".[4] A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with coloured stripes, was published in 1844.[5] The "candy cane" is found in literature in 1866, though no description of color or flavor was provided.[6] The Nursery monthly magazine noted them in association with Christmas in 1874,[7] and the Babyland magazine mentioned canes being hung on Christmas trees in 1882.[8]


An early 1900s Christmas card image of candy canes

A common folkloric story of the origin of candy canes says that in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some "sugar sticks" for them.[9][10][11][12] In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus.[9][10][11] In addition, he used the white color of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus.[9][10][11] From Germany, candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity.[10][12] The candy cane became associated with Christmastide.[2]


A striped candy cane being made by hand from a large mass of red and white sugar syrup

As with other forms of stick candy, the earliest canes were manufactured by hand. Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s.[13]

In 1919 in Albany, Georgia, Robert McCormack began making candy canes for local children and by the middle of the century, his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world's leading candy cane producers. Candy cane manufacturing initially required significant labor that limited production quantities; the canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line to create their curved shape and breakage often ran over 20 percent. McCormack's brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, was a seminary student in Rome who spent his summers working in the candy factory back home. In 1957, Keller, as an ordained Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, patented his invention, the Keller Machine,[14] which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and cutting it into precise lengths as candy canes.[15]

Use during Saint Nicholas Day[edit]

On Saint Nicholas Day celebrations, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas;[3] crosiers allude to the Good Shepherd, a name sometimes used to refer to Jesus of Nazareth.[16][17]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eveleth, Rose. "We Don't Know the Origins of the Candy Cane, But They Almost Certainly Were Not Christian". Smithsonian.
  2. ^ a b Hartel, Richard W.; Hartel, AnnaKate (28 March 2014). Candy Bites: The Science of Sweets. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 53. ISBN 9781461493839. Retrieved 8 January 2015. The candy cane is said to have its origins at Christmas time in Germany circa 1670. A church choirmaster in Cologne gave sticks of hard candy with a crook at the end to the children in his choir to keep them quiet during long Christmas services.
  3. ^ a b American Christmas Tree Journal. National Christmas Tree Association. 2005. p. 40. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death in 343 A.D. The candy cane is said to represent the crozier, or bishop's staff, of St. Nicholas.
  4. ^ The Exhibitions and Fairs of Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. 1-5 (1837-1847). Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. 1837. p. 25. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  5. ^ Parkinson, Eleanor (1844). The complete confectioner, pastry ... – Eleanor Parkinson – Google Books. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  6. ^ Ballou's monthly magazine – Google Books. 1977-04-29. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  7. ^ The Nursery – Google Books. 1874. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  8. ^ Ella Farman Pratt, Mrs (2004-06-30). Babyland – Charles Stuart Pratt – Google Books. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  9. ^ a b c R. O. Parker (19 October 2001). Introduction to Food Science. Delmar. ISBN 9780766813144. Retrieved 17 December 2011. In 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral gave sugar sticks to his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Crèche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into the shepherd's crooks. In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio decorated a small pine tree with paper ornaments and candy canes.
  10. ^ a b c d Helen Haidle (2002). Christmas Legends to Remember. David C. Cook. ISBN 9781562925345. Retrieved 17 December 2011. Around 1670, a choirmaster of a cathedral in Cologne, Germany, handed out sugar sticks to his young singers. At Christmas, in honor of the birth of Jesus, the choirmaster bent the sugar sticks at one end, forming the shape of a shepherd's crook. These white candy canes helped keep the children quiet during the long Christmas Eve Nativity service. From Germany, the use of candy shepherds' staffs spread across Europe, where plays of the Christmas Nativity were accompanied by gifts of the sweet "shepherds' crooks."
  11. ^ a b c Ace Collins (20 April 2010). Great Traditions of Christmas. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310873884. Retrieved 17 December 2011. Church history records that in 1670 the choirmaster at Germany's Cologne Cathedral was faced with a problem that still challenges parents, teachers, and choir In ancient Cologne, as well as in thousands of churches today, the children in the choir often grew restless and noisy during the long services. He sought out a local candy maker, and after looking over the treats in his shop, the music leader paused in front of some white sweet sticks. Yet the choirmaster wondered if the priests and parents would allow him to give the children in his choir candy to eat during a church service. The choirmaster asked the candy maker if he could bend the sticks and make a crook at the top of each one. The candy would not be just a treat; it would be a teaching tool. The choirmaster decided that the candy's pure white color would represent the purity of Christ. The crook would serve as a way for the children to remember the story of the shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus. The shepherds carried staffs or canes, and with the hook at the top of the stick, the candy now looked like a cane.
  12. ^ a b It's Christmas Season: My, How Sweet It Is!. The Milwaukee Journal. 13 December 1968. Retrieved 20 December 2011. In 1670, a choirmaster at Germany's Cologne cathedral bent the ends of some sugar sticks to represent shepherds' crooks, and distributed them to youngsters. The practice spread.
  13. ^ "Patent US1680440 – CANDY-FORMING MACHINE – Google Patents". Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  14. ^ "Candy cane forming machine". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Bobs Candies".
  16. ^ Karambai, Sebastian S. (1 January 2005). Ministers and Ministries in the Local Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Ecclesiastical Norms. The Bombay Saint Paul Society. p. 41. ISBN 9788171097258. Retrieved 8 January 2015. The crosier (pastoral staff) is the symbol of the office of the Good Shepherd, who watches over and leads with care the flock entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit.
  17. ^ Webb, Val (30 September 2010). Stepping Out with the Sacred. A&C Black. p. 79. ISBN 9781441196422. Retrieved 8 January 2015. The image of Jesus as the good shepherd spoke volumes to the early Church as a metaphor for Divine care such that bishops, in time, carried a shepherd's crook (crosier) with its hooked end to symbolize “pastoral” care (pastoral meaning “of or relating to shepherds or herders”)— interestingly, the hook on some crosiers ends in a snake's head.
  18. ^ "The White Striples". Archived from the original on 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2016-12-26.
  19. ^ Fricke, David (2005). "White on White". Rolling Stone.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of candy cane at Wiktionary