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Candy cane facts for kids

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Candy cane
Candy-Cane-Classic thumbnail.png
A traditional candy cane
Alternative names Peppermint stick
Type Confectionery
Place of origin Germany
Main ingredients Sugar, flavoring (often peppermint)

A candy cane is a cane-shaped stick candy often associated with Christmastide, as well as Saint Nicholas Day. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint, but they also come in a variety of other flavors and colors.


Candy cane William B Steenberge Bangor NY 1844-1922
An early 1900s Christmas card image of candy canes

In the 17th century, white sticks of candy were popular, but they were not colorful. According to legend, a choir leader in Germany asked the people that made the candy to bend the sticks so that they looked like shepherd's staffs. He then gave the candy canes to the children to keep them quiet during church services. The colors are also said to be symbolic. The white part represents purity, and the red represents the blood of Jesus. From Germany, candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity.

A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with colored stripes, was published in The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker, in 1844. However, the earliest documentation of a "candy cane" is found in the short story "Tom Luther's Stockings", published in Ballou's Monthly Magazine in 1866.


Candy cane rolling (10932098486)
A striped candy cane being made by hand from a large mass of red and white sugar syrup

As with other forms of stick candy, the earliest canes were manufactured by hand. Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s.

In 1919, in Albany, Georgia, Robert McCormack began making candy canes for local children and by the middle of the century, his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world's leading candy cane producers. Candy cane manufacturing initially required significant labor that limited production quantities; the canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line to create their curved shape and breakage often ran over 20 percent. McCormack's brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, was a seminary student in Rome who spent his summers working in the candy factory back home. In 1957, Keller, as an ordained Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, patented his invention, the Keller Machine, which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and cutting it into precise lengths as candy canes.

Use during Saint Nicholas Day

On Saint Nicholas Day celebrations, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas; crosiers allude to the Good Shepherd, a name sometimes used to refer to Jesus of Nazareth.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bastón de caramelo para niños

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