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Did you ever wonder about the origin of the candy cane?
The symbol of the shepherds’ crook is an ancient one, representing the humble shepherds who were the first to worship the newborn Christ. Its counterpart is our candy cane – so old as a symbol that we have nearly forgotten its humble origin.

Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds’ crooks. In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes.

It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm. The body of the cane is white, representing the life that is pure. The broad red stripe is symbolic of the Lord’s sacrifice for man.

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas treats for his children, friends and local shopkeepers in Albany, Georgia. It was a laborious process – pulling, twisting, cutting and bending the candy by hand. It could only be done on a local scale.

In the 1950s, Bob’s brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to automate candy cane production. Packaging innovations by the younger McCormacks made it possible to transport the delicate canes on a scale that transformed Bobs Candies, Inc. into the largest producer of candy canes in the world.

Although modern technology has made candy canes accessible and plentiful, they’ve not lost their purity and simplicity as a traditional holiday food and symbol of the humble roots of Christianity.


Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition  / HarperCollins (September 1989)
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
The Legend of the Candy Cane
by Lori Walburg, James Bernardin (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 32 pages / Zondervan; (October 19, 1997)
In this Christmas picture book, children will learn the Christian symbolism behind the candy cane and the importance of sharing the story of Jesus with others.

Twas the Night Before Christmas
by Matt Tavares / Library Binding:- 32 pages / Candlewick Press; (October 2002)
Capture the mystery, surprise and anticipation of what many children consider the most magical night of the year. The finely wrought portraits and shadowy, snow-covered Victorian setting will enchant.

The Legend of the Candy Cane
DVD / U.S. and Canada only. / Animated, Color, Closed-captioned / Fox Home Entertainme (2003)
Based on the bestselling book, this is an inspirational animated Christmas story brimming with Christian virtues. DVD features include a "making of" segment featuring storyboards in progress and interviews with stars.

History of the Candy Cane
This site sponsered by the National Confectioners Association has the histoy of many candies including the candy cane.
The Story of The Candy Cane
The symbol of the shepherd's crook is an ancient one, representing the humble shepherds who were first to worship the newborn Christ.
Religious Symbolism of Candy Canes
Candy canes were created to symbolize Jesus, their shape representing the letter "J" and their colors standing for the purity and blood of Christ.


Many machines help with the production of this popular Christmas confection. Sugar and corn syrup are heated in large kettles and then vacuum cooked. The candy is poured on a cooling table where peppermint and starch are added. The starch holds flavor during mixing and prevents stickiness. Next, a kneader mixes the flavoring and candy together until it turns a golden brown color. Afterwards, it is placed into a puller that turns the candy silky white. It moves to a batch former and is made into a log-like shape.

The stripes are formed on a heating table and placed on the white log. The candy is put back on the batch roller and formed into a cone shape. Sizing wheels reduce the cone to the diameter of a candy cane and turn it into a rope. Next, a twister will make the rope into a barber pole.

Finally, it moves to a cutter that snips the candy into strips. The candy is kept warm so it will not harden. It is placed in wrappers and the heat of the candy will shrink the wrappers. The canes move to a crooker, which will give the candy its Shepard’s Crook or hook. The candy canes are placed into a box (called a cradle) inspected and shipped.


  • For 200 years, the candy cane came only in one color — white
  • National Candy Cane Day is celebrated December 26th in the United States
  • In December 1998 Richard and Kathleen Fabiano-Ghinelli made the biggest candy cane at 36 feet 7 inches
  • Each year 1.76 billion candy canes are made — enough to stretch from Santa Clause, IN to North Pole, AK and back again 32 times
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised November 29, 2005.
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