Regardless of the fact that you probably haven’t eaten a raw candy cane since you were in middle school, you’ve got to admit to getting at least a little bit excited when they start showing up on the shelves at the local Duane Reade. Candy canes are one of those Christmastime harbingers that seem to spread cheer simply by existing. But why?
Candy canes have actually been around for about 350 years. At their inception, they were just plain white sugar sticks being produced by professional candy-makers and at-home cooks/sugar aficionados alike. With the advent of the Christmas tree in the late seventeenth century, European Christians began using them to decorate their trees, along with other sweets like sugar cookies.
As the legend goes, a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany bent one of these “candy canes” into the J-like shape we see today to represent a shepherd’s staff, and handed them out to children during Christmas mass to keep them happy and quiet. Candy canes were also, apparently, a way to communicate religious beliefs in more discriminatory areas.
Candy canes spread throughout Europe and to the States where, in 1847, German immigrant August Imgard first decorated his Ohio home’s Christmas tree with them. American candy makers began making candy canes in different flavors like peppermint and added the color red to their design. While the origin of the red and white color combination is unknown, some claim the three red on traditional candy canes represent the Holy Trinity.
Try spreading some baked-good cheer of your own with our recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Stars.