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The Candy Canes of Christmas

Candy cane sweet treats made primarily from boiled sugar seem to have first appeared in Europe in the late 1600’s to early 1700’s.  They were made in many different colors (most often white) and shapes (most often straight sticks), evolving to the familiar cane or upside down J shape with the red and white stripes in the early 1900’s.

 The cane shape turned out to be a great way to hang the sugar treats on the Christmas tree that was also strongly associated with the Christmas season and the bright colors of red and white were a nice contrast with the green of the Christmas trees.  This was during a time when many food items were hung on the Christmas trees from strings of popcorn to cookies and pastries.

 The exact story of how and why the candy canes evolved into the red and white striped cane shapes we are so familiar with today is lost to history, but a reasonable explanation is that the cane shape was created to look like the staff of a shepherd (which fits in not only with the story of shepherds attending Jesus’ birth, but also of the symbolism of Jesus as a shepherd of his flock).  These treats were then given to small children to encourage them to behave at long church services during the Christmas season.

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