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Unlike many Christmas traditions, the history of the Candy Cane is surprisingly well documented.

According to CandyHistory.net, candy canes were originally created over 350 years ago, and were originally made as straight sticks flavored with sugar only. It’s long been believed that the now-famous crook shape came about in 1670, when a German choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral bent the candy sugar sticks to make them look like shepherd’s hooks. These candies were given out to children who attended church ceremonies, in an effort to bribe them to keep them quiet and well-behaved. This custom eventually spread across Europe and America and became popular.

All White Candy Canes

 

Over the years, they gradually evolved from a bland candy sugar stick to the striped wonder we celebrate today.

In 1847, August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio, was the first person documented to decorate his Christmas tree with candy canes, along with paper ornaments.

While still primarily blank white, they didn’t receive their stripes until the end of the 19th century.  It is rumored that inspiration came from the familiar view of barber poles.

Around 1950, peppermint was introduced to candy canes and became their signature flavor.  To this day, red and white candies of multiple shapes and sizes are now generally associated with the taste of peppermint. In the US there are now a variety of shapes, sizes and types of candies that all have the candy cane as their forebearer.  The use has become so widespread, that many people recognize even the simplest of this lineage with the holidays.

Also in the 1950s, a Catholic priest by the name of Gregory Keller invented an automated candy cane machine, to twist the candies into their popular shape. And since then, there’s been no looking back.

So much of the modern American Christmas culture is derived from and continues to grow wit this simple and lasting treat.