How Peppermint Candy Canes Became the Original Holiday Candy - Royal Wholesale

How Peppermint Candy Canes Became the Original Holiday Candy

3 min reading time

Throughout most of the year, peppermint is most seen when enjoying an after dinner mint, chewing on some gum or brushing our teeth. But around the holidays, peppermint totally takes over. From Starbucks lattes and special edition Oreos to limited time ice cream flavors and so much more, peppermint is the star of Christmastime. And the most popular of all the minty treats is the iconic candy cane! So, we began to wonder; how did peppermint candy canes become the original holiday candy? The answer wasn't so straightforward.

We discovered that there have a been a few competing claims for how the candy cane came to be. And while most of the theories haven't been able to produce any real historical evidence, it's cool to know them all anyway.

Theory #1:

In this first theory, we have the choirmaster at Germany's Cologne Cathedral to thank for our favorite peppermint confection. Back in 1670, he faced the same problem most parents and teachers still have today: getting kids to sit quietly and still.  So as a solution to how restless and noisy the children would get during the services, he sought out a local candy maker. He came across some white sweet sticks, but worried that the priests and parents wouldn't approve of the kids eating these candies while in church. He then asked the candymaker if he could bend the shape of the sticks, so they would look like a shepherd's staff. This way, he could use the candy as a teaching tool. Its shape would symbolize the shepherds that came to visit baby Jesus, while it's white color would represent the purity of Christ.

Theory #2:

At a much, much later date than theory #1, it is believed that a candymaker in Indiana was responsible for the creation of the candy cane as we know it today. It is said that he wanted to make a candy that would be witness, so he incorporated several symbols from birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ into a sweet treat. Firstly, the stick of white candy was to symbolize the Virgin birth and purity of Jesus, while the hardness represented the Solid Rock, or foundation of the church. The 'J' shape was, of course, meant for the precious name of Jesus, while also representing the staff of the 'Good Shepherd.' Finally, the three small red stripes show the scourging Jesus received for us, while the large red stripe was for the blood shed on the cross.

Unlike theories #1 and #2, there is one verifiable theory that exists, and it takes us to Albany, Georgia in 1919.

Theory #3:

We have a lot more reason to believe that candymaker, Bob McCormack is responsible for the origin of the candy cane. He began making red and white candy canes to sell locally for family and friends, but by the middle of the century, his small business became the world's leading producer of the canes we enjoy today. As his company (originally known as Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company and later Bo'bs Candies) took off, he quickly realized that manufacturing the candy cane shape required a lot of manual labor, which limited production quantities and caused up to 22% of the canes to get broken and tossed. As a solution, his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Harding Keller, invented the Keller Machine which automated the process of shaping the candy sticks into candy canes for the perfect bend every time.

So despite the lack of proof that the origin of our beloved candy cane had any real religious meaning, the folklore has certainly helped shape this Christmastime tradition. And while we now see so many different shapes, sizes, colors and even flavors of candy cane during the holidays, the peppermint candy cane will always remain the classic favorite of the season.

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