The original candy canes were not shaped like the ones we know today. Instead, they were simply hard sugar sticks that were straight and their only color was white. The first evidence of the candy cane shape we have now developed in the seventeenth century. In 1670, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany bent the candy in the form of a shepherd’s staff and gave it out to children during long Christmas services. The canes at this point were still completely white.
The canes also became popular as decorations on Christmas trees throughout Europe. Americans eventually started decorating their trees with the white candy canes in the mid-nineteenth century.
It is unknown exactly who decided to put the first stripes on a candy cane, but the striped candy cane appeared after 1900. Candy makers started to include the peppermint and wintergreen flavors around the same time. Candy cane production got a boost in the 1950’s when a machine was invented to make them.
Though there is no direct historical evidence to support these claims, many Christians have given symbolic meaning to the candy cane. Some believe that its shape represents the “J” in Jesus’ name. Others believe it symbolizes a shepherd’s crook and shows how Jesus watches over his flock of believers.
The colors of the candy cane are thought by some to be symbolic also. It is believed by some people that the white of the candy cane represents the Jesus’ innocence. The red stripes are said to represent Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.