Have you ever thought of Christmas without the candy cane? At least from the history of all current generations, we presume it to be the common sweet treat of the Christmas holidays. So, how far back does the story of this candy truly exist? As it turns out, there are various stories ranging back several centuries that tell of the different sweets much like the candy cane which were a part of the winter holiday.
Interestingly enough, the earliest origins of the candy cane date back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds’ crooks.
Then, this continues on with an 1847 German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, who decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes. However, red and white stripes and peppermint flavors weren’t the norm until the 20th century.
Throughout the 20th century other updates were made, including the first patent for the candy cane in the early 1920s by the Bunte Brothers in Chicago. Also, in 1919 in Albany, GA, Robert McCormack began making candy canes for local children and by the middle of the century, his company became one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. Candy cane manufacturing initially required more manual labor in bending them, often leading to breakage of over 20 percent.
Then, in 1957, McCormack’s brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, an ordained Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, patented his invention, the Keller Machine. This machine automatically twists soft candy into spiral, striping and cutting it into the precise length of candy canes.
Even further, an Indiana candy maker wanted to make candy that represented Jesus Christ, so he made the Christmas candy cane. He started with a stick of pure white hard candy, white to represent the virgin birth purity of Jesus, while the hard candy symbolized represents the firm foundation of the church and God. And here, we return to the candy being made in the form of a J like the staff of the Good Shepherds as well as the name of Jesus.
No matter what, there is a touching story at any point through the past 4 or 5 centuries related to the candy cane. While it may not always be related directly to Christmas, it is definitely related to interpersonal cheer and happiness during holiday celebrations.