Would you bribe a child with a candy cane? In the 17th century, a German choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany asked craftsmen to make white sticks of candy – in the shape of a shepherds’ crook — to keep children quiet during Christmas ceremonies. According to the History of Christmas, the act of passing out candy at other religious ceremonies spread through Europe.
In the U.S., the National Confectioners Association reported that a German immigrant used candy canes to decorate his Christmas tree in Wooster, Ohio. More than 50 years later, a Georgia resident Bob McCormack supposedly made the treats for friends and family. His brother-in-law Catholic priest Gregory Keller later invented a machine to rapidly produce candy canes.
Nearly two billion candy canes will be sold in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Most are purchased for children, but plenty of adults still enjoy the traditional candy as a treat and a decoration.
Many chefs in the kitchen enjoy adding candy canes to culinary treats. Jennifer Franklin, of Princeton, and Vicki Reed, of Bluefield, combine baked goods and candy.
“ Love candy canes,” Franklin said. “I crush them for toppings for cupcakes and cookies. And I love to make peppermint bark with them. My kids love them, too. No mini candy canes at our house. Full size. We have plastic ones on the tree though.”
Vicki Reed, who has a young child with severe allergies, loves candy canes. She is happy that candy canes are a treat her son can enjoy every Christmas. But she has also used them for decorations.
“I crush them and melt them to make Christmas ornaments. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without candy canes,” Reed added.
Princeton native Stacey Tuffs, who lives in Huntington, said at one time, she dismissed candy canes as a treat.
“I was kind of over the traditional candy cane until I learned the story, true or not, about it,” Tuffs said. “ ... How its the shape of a staff to represent the Shepherd, a J for Jesus, the white symbolizing Christ’s purity and the red, the shed blood. That made it pretty relevant again.”
On the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Facebook page, Patti Gibson wrote she loved the biblical story of the candy cane. But she added another reason to keep candy canes around during the holidays.
“...It is also a great to flavor to add to hot cocoa or even eat on a cold night watching Christmas movies,” she said. “Love them, never get tired of it.”
For many, candy canes symbolize childhood, which is why Beth Jackson, of Bluefield, loves the traditional treat.
“I can remember as a child whenever I had an upset stomach, my grandmother would give me a candy cane stick and I would suck on it and it always made me feel better. It could be an old wives tale but it works for my children as well. Peppermint settles the stomach. And I would also try to suck the candy cane to a point, just so I could jab my brother with it.”
But BDT Facebook fan Joe Honaker recalled a few sticky and messy situations as a child with a large candy cane. He said he preferred the tiny candy canes instead.
“ But even they poured hard sugar crystals onto your clothes when you opened the bag,” he said.
Bake, decorate or eat — there are still plenty of uses for the candy cane. Take a look at the seasonal candy aisle and shoppers will find every flavor from fruit to peppermint. Online shoppers can find bacon-flavored candy canes, as well as fancy pickle candy canes on Amazon.
— Contact Jamie Parsell at
Information from www.candycanefacts.com and www.thehistoryof Christmas.com