Where Candy Canes Come From


One year when I was very young, my mother took me to see Santa Claus at Miller's department store in Knoxville. They had a candy cane factory set up in the middle of the sales floor! While we kids waited in line to see Santa, we could watch through the glass windows and see the candy being cooked, pulled, twisted, and wrapped. After we spoke to Santa, each child would get a fresh cane, still slightly warm. That's a memory I will always treasure. But where did the tradition of Christmas candy canes come from?

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During the Christmas of 1670, Cologne Cathedral in Germany was staging a living nativity. The choir director gave out white sugar sticks to children as a reward for good behavior. This is the earliest documented use of candy canes for Christmas. Some sources say the choir director had the canes bent to resemble a shepherd's crook before giving them out. The bent shape made the candy just right for hanging on a tree. The Christmas tree shown is from the early 1800s, decorated with candy and cookies.

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Peppermint became a trendy flavor around the turn of the 20th century for flavoring candy, gum, and toothpaste. In 1901 the King Leo candy company created the first peppermint stick candy.

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This is a great setup if you need to make thousands of candy canes in batches weighing hundreds of pounds, but you can make your own candy canes. After you are finished with the candy making, you might want to try Emiril Lagasse's recipe.