Candy cane

Peppermint stick candy

  •   Media: Candy cane

A candy cane is a cane-shaped stick candy often associated with Christmastide,[1] as well as Saint Nicholas Day.[2] It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint, but the canes 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".[3] A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with colored stripes, was published in The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker, in 1844.[4] However, the earliest documentation of a "candy cane" is found in the short story "Tom Luther's Stockings", published in Ballou's Monthly Magazine in 1866. Described as "mammoth" in size, no mention of color or flavor was provided.[5] The Nursery monthly magazine mentions "candy-canes" in association with Christmas in 1874,[6] and Babyland magazine describes "tall, twisted candy canes" being hung on a Christmas tree in 1882.[7]

Religious affiliation

An early 1900s Christmas card image of candy canes

A common 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.[8][9][10][11] In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during Mass, 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.[8][9][10] In addition, he used the white color of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus.[8][9][10] From Germany, candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity.[9][11] The candy cane became associated with Christmastide.[1] This story is likely apocryphal, with references to it not existing before the mid-20th century. [12]


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

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;[2] crosiers allude to the Good Shepherd, a name sometimes used to refer to Jesus of Nazareth.[16][17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Hartel, Richard W.; Hartel, AnnaKate (2014). Candy Bites: The Science of Sweets. New York: Springer. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-4614-9383-9 – via Google Books. 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.
  2. ^ a b "American Christmas Tree Journal". National Christmas Tree Association. 2005. p. 40 – via Google Books. 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. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  3. ^ First Exhibition and Fair of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, at Faneuil and Quincy Halls, in the City of Boston, September 18, 1837. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, for the association. 1837. p. 25 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Parkinson, Eleanor (1844). The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Bates, M. A. (January–June 1866). "Tom Luther's Stockings". Ballou's Monthly Magazine. Vol. 23. pp. 236–238 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Benny's Letter". The Nursery. Vol. 15. 1874. p. 18 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Round the Christ-mas Tree". Babyland. Vol. 6, no. 1. January 1882. p. 8 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ a b c Parker, Rick (2003). Introduction to Food Science. Albany, New York: Delmar/Thomson Learning. ISBN 0-7668-1314-2 – via Google Books. 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.
  9. ^ a b c d Haidle, Helen (2007). Christmas Legends to Remember. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Honor Books. ISBN 978-1-56292-534-5 – via Google Books. 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."
  10. ^ a b c Collins, Ace (2003). Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-24880-9 – via Google Books. 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.
  11. ^ a b "It's Christmas Season: My, How Sweet It Is!". The Milwaukee Journal. December 13, 1968. 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.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^
  13. ^ "[Patent US1680440 – Candy-Forming Machine]". Google Patents. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  14. ^ "[Patent US2956520A – Candy Cane Forming Machine]". Google Patents. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  15. ^ Bowers, Paige (September 10, 2019). "Bobs Candies". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  16. ^ Karambai, Sebastian S. (2005). Ministers and Ministries in the Local Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Ecclesiastical Norms. Mumbai: St Pauls. p. 41. ISBN 81-7109-725-1 – via Google Books. 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 (2010). Stepping Out with the Sacred: Human Attempts to Engage the Divine. London: Continuum. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4411-9642-2 – via Google Books. 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.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Candy canes.
  • The dictionary definition of candy cane at Wiktionary
  • St. Nicholas Day Blessing of Candy Canes
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