Origins of the Candy Cane

Here is an excerpt form Christianity Today:

So where did candy canes come from? Tradition holds that in about 1670, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral was frustrated by fidgety kids at the living Nativity. He had some white, sugar-candy sticks made to keep the youngsters quiet. The sticks were curved like shepherds' staffs in honor of the shepherds at the stable (score one for the apologists). The idea caught on, and candy sticks became common at living Nativities all over Europe.

In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard put candy canes on his Christmas tree in Wooster, Ohio. The sweets gained popularity here, too, and around the turn of the century, they assumed their now familiar properties of red stripes and peppermint flavoring. (Though these elements might have been added for symbolic purposes, there's no evidence to confirm that theory.)

In Albany, Georgia, in the 1920s, a candymaker named Bob McCormack made canes as special treats for family and friends, but the confections were difficult to mass-produce. Then, in the 1950s, Bob's brother-in-law Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to speed up the process. Other members of the McCormack family worked on new packaging to keep the canes from breaking in transit, and Bob's Candies (www.bobscandies.com) became the world's leading candy cane producer.

So yes, the candy cane's origin was Christian. But it was almost certainly not designed to be the tasty theological treatise it's now purported to be. As Barbara "the cane mutiny" Mikkelson posted on the Urban Legends Reference Pages (www.snopes2.com/holidays/xmas/cndycane.htm), "It's charming folklore at best, and though there's nothing wrong with Christians now finding (and celebrating) symbolism where there wasn't any before, there is something wrong with myths being presented as fact." For the sake of history, I have to agree with her.

I would just like to note the Catholic origins of this treat.

I have this very clear image of a frustrated choir director with all the boys dressed as shepherds having an 'ah-ha' moment that he would make these shepherd sticks that the kids could eat and still look like it was part of the costume. To have been there that first year...well-- I think we've all been there, haven't we?

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