Candy cane

Candy cane
A traditional candy cane (left) and a Nestlé Spree version (right).

A candy cane is a hard cane-shaped candy stick. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint or cinnamon; however, it is also made in a variety of other flavors and may be decorated with stripes of different colors and thicknesses. The candy cane is available year-round, but traditionally surrounds the Christmas holiday, particularly in North America.



In its early form, the candy cane began as a simple white stick of sugar for children to eat - there was no "cane" shape or stripes to speak of. While it is uncertain where the first canes originated, it is clear that by the mid-17th century, if not earlier, its use had already become widespread across Europe.[1][2] These sticks were made by confectioners who had to pull, cut, twist, and (in later years) bend the sugar sticks by hand, making it a time-intensive process. Candy cane production had to be done locally, since they were easily damaged and vulnerable to moisture.[3] The labour required, and difficulty of storage, combined to make these candies relatively hard to get, although popular.[4]

The Candy Cane was first manufactured in the 1920’s when Bob McCormack in Albany, Georgia first started making them as Christmas treat, giving them out to children, family, friends, and co-workers. Candy Cane production was a labor intensive process, done only by hand, until the candy cane machine was invented in the 1950’s by Bob McCormack’s brother in-law, Gregory Keller, who was also a Catholic priest. This machine made it possible to ship candy canes and it made the production of the traditional Christmas treat a lot easier. The candy cane machine transformed Bob’s Candies Inc. into the biggest candy company in the world.


The cane shape

The distinctive "hook" shape associated with candy canes is traditionally credited to a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany, who, legend has it, in 1670 bent straight candy sticks into canes to represent a shepherd's crook, and gave them to children at church services.[6] The shepherd's staff is often used in Christianity as a metaphor for The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. It is also possible that, as people decorated their Yule trees with food, the bent candy cane was invented as a functional solution.[7]

Christmas usage

In Europe, candy canes were used to decorate Yule trees along with other items of food.[8] In North America, the first documented example of the use of candy canes to celebrate Christmas occurred in 1847, when a German-Swedish immigrant by the name of August Imgard hung the candy canes from the branches of a Christmas tree. Christmas cards from the following decades show Christmas trees decorated with candy canes, first white canes, then striped ones in the 20th century. This then spread to the rest of the continent, where it continues to remain a popular Christmas tradition.[9]

Candy canes are primarily used as a decoration for Christmas trees. This is done by using the "hook" shape of the candy cane to hang them on branches of the Christmas tree. A single tree can have many candy canes.

Red stripes and peppermint flavor

The stripes are made similar in fashion to a barber's pole, with the red stripes twisting around the white stick of sugar.[10] These signature stripes did not become part of the candy cane until the 19th century.[9][11] It is uncertain who first started using the stripes, but evidence of their use only appears after the turn of the century. At around this time, candy makers began using peppermint as a flavor.[9] One of the first documented candy canes in this form is the polkagris, invented in 1859.

Mass production

Bobs Candies was the first company to successfully mass-produce and distribute candy canes while preserving their freshness. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas treats in the 1920s.[12] That decade also saw the company's use of cellophane as a wrapping to keep moisture from damaging the candies, and by the 1950s, they were using a candy cane machine invented by his brother-in-law Gregory Keller to mass-produce them. These two inventions made it feasible to mass produce, ship, and distribute candy canes.[13] The following years saw further refinements in packaging and design to protect the candies from being broken, making it more practical to store them and ship them for longer periods of time.[14]

When making candy canes, sweeteners are the primary ingredients. Coloring, flavorings, and processed ingredient as well as water and raw materials are used to produce the appropriate texture, taste, and appearance. For example, without corn syrup, candy canes would be transparent. But beyond the sugar and corn syrup, molasses, glucose syrups, and other crude sugars are sometimes added. Wintergreen and peppermint oil are what candy cane factories often use to give the original candy canes their mint flavor. Steps To Making Candy Canes Step One: Blend all of your ingredients together in a large vessel. Ingredients should be poured or dumped into batch. At this step water, sugar, corn syrup, and other processing ingredients are combined, heated to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit , and allowed to cook until they form an amber liquid.  Step Two: Mixture is poured over water-cooled tables while hot, it cooks slightly and then stretched until it turns a silky white color.  Step Three: Coloring and flavorings are added in this step.  Step Four: The loaf of candy cane dough is cut, formed, and dyed until ready and put into packaging. [15]  

Modern reinterpretations

There is a modern allegorical tradition that reinterprets the candy cane's shape as a "J", standing for Jesus Christ or the right side up standing for the shepherds that came to visit baby Jesus. The stripes are said to represent his sacrifice, with the red being blood, and the white being purity. However, no historical information to support any claim that the cane was originally made with this allegory in mind has been produced, so it is regarded as an urban legend.[16]

Other uses of the pattern

Candy cane stripes have been used as a daymark for lighthouses. See White Shoal Light. Indeed, the phrase "Candy stripe" is a generic description of the candy cane color scheme. Candy striper is a generic name for a hospital volunteer.

See also

  • Candy Cane Lane (disambiguation)
  • Rock (candy)
  • Stick candy


  1. ^ InventHelp, paragraph 2
  2. ^ Snopes, heading "Origins", paragraphs 6-8
  3. ^ InventHelp, paragraph 6
  4. ^ InventHelp, paragraph 2, 6
  5. ^
  6. ^ Snopes, Origins, paragraph 6
  7. ^ Snopes, Origins, paragraphs 6-8
  8. ^ Snopes, Origins, paragraph 7
  9. ^ a b c InventHelp, paragraph 5
  10. ^ Candy USA, "How Are Candy Canes Made?"
  11. ^ Snopes, Origins, paragraph 4-5
  12. ^ InventHelp, paragraphs 7-8
  13. ^ InventHelp, paragraph 8
  14. ^ Bobs Candy, paragraph 3
  15. ^
  16. ^ Snopes, Origins, paragraphs 1-4


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • candy cane — n AmE a stick of hard red and white sugar with a curved end …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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  • candy cane — noun (C) AmE a stick of hard red and white sugar with a curved end …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Candy stripe — may refer to: *Candy stripe, the colors of a Candy cane *Candy stripe, the uniform worn by a U.S. Hospital volunteer **Candystriper, a Hospital volunteer *Candy Stripe, a variety of Pluot, a complex cross hybrid of plum and apricot *candy stripe… …   Wikipedia

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  • candy canes — noun plural of candy cane …   Wiktionary

  • candy — [kan′dē] n. pl. candies [< sugar candy < ME (sugre) candi < OFr (sucre) candi < OIt ( zucchero) candi < Ar qandi < Pers qand, cane sugar; prob. < Sans khaṇḍa, piece (of sugar)] 1. crystallized sugar made by boiling and… …   English World dictionary

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