According to the National Confectioners Association, the minty confection is believed to have been introduced in 1670 by a German choirmaster. The mysterious choirmaster reportedly worked at the Cologne Cathedral in what is now considered Köln, Germany, where he served shepherd crook candies to the young singers occupied during long Living Creche ceremonies.
The NCA reports that the early candy cane tradition spread throughout the rest of Germany and eventually made its way to the U.S. with help from August Imgard – a German-Swedish immigrant. In 18,47, Imgard reportedly celebrated Christmas by decorating blue spruce with candy canes and ornaments and his neighbors in Wooster, Ohio, took notice.
"The tradition began to spread, and around the turn of the century, red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm," the NCA wrote, in a history post about candy canes.
Candy canes began to be commercially manufactured in the 1920s by Bobs Candies, a sweets company based in Albany, Georgia. The factory’s owner, Bob McCormack, made "candy canes as special Christmas treats for his children, friends and local shopkeepers," according to the NCA.
Production of the candy canes went into overdrive in the 1950s after Bobs Candies introduced automation to its factory, which allowed machines to pull, twist, cut and bend candy canes with little human interaction.
Bobs’ candy canes are still sold in the U.S. under the Ferrara Candy Co. Other candy manufacturers cook up candy canes throughout the year, with special attention from late November to December, including the Spangler Candy Co. and Doscher’s Candy Co.
Odd and interesting candy cane facts
- National Candy Cane Day is celebrated in the U.S. on Dec. 26 – the day after Christmas, which is a time when many families pick candy cane decorations off their trees, garlands and wreaths.
- 90% of candy canes are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, according to the NCA. Candy canes typically see their highest sale week in the second week of December.
- On average, candy canes are usually 6 inches tall and .25-inch thick, according to Encyclopedia.com.
- Nutrition data on Nutritionix.com says a single candy cane that weighs 14 grams is equivalent to about 55 calories and would require five minutes of running to burn off.
- Peppermint is the signature flavor of candy canes, but dozens of flavors and colors have been introduced in the last century, including chocolate, fruit candy and cookie.
- The world’s largest candy cane was made by Swiss pastry chef Alain Roby in 2012. It measured reportedly measured 51 feet in length.