Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Catholic Defender: History of the Candy Cane

Christmas is about the birth of Christ pure and simple.

Over the years traditions have developed to help bring joy to the season of Christmas bringing many sub-traditions that help us focus on the reason for the season.

It is centered around family, faith, and love. It is about traditions that help people identify to the birth of Christ.

As deepertruth looks at the season of Christmas, I thought it was interesting to look at the history of the candy cane.

I remember growing up putting candy canes on the Christmas tree.  They were usually found in the stockings around the fireplace.  

The following is written by Mary Bellis of about.com

The origin of the candy cane goes back over 350 years, when candy-makers both professional and amateur were making hard sugar sticks. The original candy was straight and completely white in color.

Birth of the Candy Cane

Around the seventeenth century, European-Christians began to adopt the use of Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations. They made special decorations for their trees from foods like cookies and sugar-stick candy. 


The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar-sticks into canes to represent a shepherd's staff. The all-white candy canes were given out to children during the long-winded nativity services.

The clergymen's custom of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America. The canes were still white, but sometimes the candy-makers would add sugar-roses to decorate the canes further.
The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when a German immigrant called August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.

The Stripes

About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes. 

Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then became the traditional favorites.

Sweet Secrets of the Candy Cane

There are many other legends and beliefs surrounding the humble candy cane. Many of them depict the candy cane as a secret symbol for Christianity used during the times when Christian were living under more oppressive circumstances. 

It was said that the cane was shaped like a "J" for Jesus. The red-and-white stripes represented Christ's blood and purity. The three red stripes symbolized the Holy Trinity. The hardness of the candy represented the Church's foundation on solid rock and the peppermint flavor represented the use of hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament."

Gregory Keller

A Catholic priest called Gregory Keller invented a machine to automate candy cane production during the 1950's.


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