Candy Cane History

Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

The history of candy canes has been under scrutiny for sometime now, but I would like to explore its realities and myths in correlation to the Christmas season.

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. (link)

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.) (link)

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 (link) became the world’s leading candy cane producer. (link)

According to some sources, while others claim that this is a myth, a faithful Indiana candymaker developed the treat as a witnessing tool. The candy is hard because God’s church is founded on the rock, white because of Jesus’s purity (or his virgin birth), peppermint flavored as a reference to cleansing hyssop, and curved to represent a shepherd’s staff and/or the letter “J” for Jesus. Accounts vary regarding the red stripes, though they all agree that red stands for Christ’s blood. Depending on which story you read, three small stripes might represent the Trinity, or small stripes could mean the stripes by which we’re healed, or our small sacrifices in comparison to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice (represented by a large stripe). (link)

Out of all of the sources that can be looked into for the history of the candy cane, it is very clear that it does have Christian roots in it. Not only when we see a candy cane or get closer to Christmas day, but everyday, we should remind ourselves of the reason that Jesus Christ came into this earth, and it was to die for our sins. Through His blood, we can find healing, deliverance and salvation. He lived a holy, sinless life, but He became sin for us, bearing all of them on a cross so that we can have access to our heavenly Father in prayer. Although our sins be red as scarlet, through Jesus Christ they are made as white as snow!