For many kids, thoughts of Christmas conjure up images of red and white stripes and minty sweetness. We’re talking about candy canes, of course!

Believe it or not, candy canes didn’t always have stripes… and they weren’t always shaped like canes. Instead, they developed from simple white sugar sticks made as candy for children.

In the mid-1600s, confectioners (candy makers) made candy sticks by hand. The process took a lot of time and strength. The candy ingredients had to be mixed, heated and then pulled, cut and twisted.

Although popular with children, candy sticks were sometimes hard to find. They took a long time to make. Plus, they were also fragile and easily damaged by moisture.

The first candy sticks were made in 1670 by the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany. They were a gift to the children attending the Christmas Nativity pageant.

Because of the shepherds in the Nativity story, the choirmaster bent the candy sticks into canes to represent the shepherd’s crook. The cane-shaped candy sticks became a tradition at the church. Their popularity eventually spread to other areas throughout Europe.

Candy canes soon became associated with the Christmas holiday. Europeans used candy canes to decorate their Yule trees (trees decorated for the Yule holiday that would eventually become Christmas). Their hook shape made them easy to hang on the branches of a Yule tree.

The practice continued in America. As early as 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard hung candy canes from the branches of his Christmas tree. These candy canes were still solid white.

Candy canes would not earn their characteristic stripes until around 1900. No one knows who first gave candy canes those well-known, bright-red stripes twisting around the candy stick like the stripes of a barber’s pole.

All that’s known for sure is that Christmas cards from the years before 1900 featured only solid white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 show striped candy canes.

At about the same time, candy makers started using peppermint and wintergreen oils to give candy canes their signature minty flavor.

In the 1920s, Bobs Candies became the first company to mass-produce candy canes. They also developed a way to protect them from harmful moisture by wrapping them in cellophane.

Other manufacturers started to mass-produce candy canes in the 1950s after Gregory Keller invented a candy cane machine. Today, traditional red and white candy canes with a minty flavor are still very popular.

If you don’t care for minty candy canes, though, that’s OK. Candy manufacturers also make candy canes in a variety of other flavors and colors.

 

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    • Hi, Rahul! Thank you for leaving us this great comment to let us know you learned some SWEET new facts about candy canes today! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I think the Wonder Of The day tomorrow will be about water bottles and how much plastic is used on them.

    Your friend Vikkie
    (P.S. Merry Christmas!)

    • Thanks so much for your holiday wishes and for visiting Wonderopolis, Vikkie! We really appreciate when our Wonder Friends try to guess the next day’s Wonder from the “Wonder what’s next?” clue! :-)

    • We thought it was really neat to learn about the history of candy canes, too, Paige! Thanks for leaving us this enthusiastic comment…you’re a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  2. This was a phenomenal wonder! I never knew that the first candy canes were plain and had no shape. The thing I don’t get is why were the first candy canes peppermint flavored? Why not cinnamon or cherry? Well anyways, I know why the candy cane is red and white from learning why at my church. Anyways, thanks for the wonder!

    • Hello, Sarah! That’s a GREAT question about the first candy cane flavors! We’re not sure why the first candy makers to add flavoring chose mint, either, but we’re sure glad they did! Candy canes are SWEET fun around the holidays! :-)

    • We were hoping you would comment and let us know you visited the candy cane Wonder, Anna! We hope you had a GREAT Christmas and we’re super happy to hear you learned a lot about these sweet holiday confections! :-)

  3. Hi, this is Mukund from Mrs. Caplin’s Class. I learned that the first candy sticks were made in 1670 in Germany. I also learned that candy canes didn’t get their unique stripes until around 1900. Why did candy manufacturers start putting stripes on candy canes and why did they make them their excellent shape? I had to use context clues to figure out what cellophane meant. It is something that you pack things with. I also learned that in the 1950s, Gregory Keller invented the first candy cane machine. I really liked this wonder.

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis on your holiday break, Mukund! We’re sure Mrs. Caplin will be super proud of you for exploring this Wonder of the Day® and for sharing all the awesome things you learned about candy canes! We’re proud of you, too! :-)

  4. Hi, this is Eric from Mrs. Caplin’s class. I learned that candy canes made before 1900 had no stripes and candy canes made after 1900 had stripes on them. I also learned that the first candy stick was made in 1670 by the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany. I wonder who came up with the first idea to make candy sticks? I never knew the first candy canes had no shape and stripes on them. Thanks for this phenomenal wonder.

    • Thank you for this phenomenal comment, Eric! We’re sure happy to hear that you learned so much about candy canes today! :-)

  5. Now I can tell my family members how they’re made! I don’t like candy canes (or any mint for that matter), so I give them to my brothers, sisters, parents, etc.

    • We bet your family members enjoy receiving all your candy canes, Ninja Girl! That’s super nice of you to share with them! Thanks for letting us know you stopped by Wonderopolis today! :-)

  6. Thanks for facts about Candy Canes which are one of my favorite Christmas Candy! The video was awesome, by the way, making the candy cane by hand amazed me. And it turned out to be a huge tall candy cane at the end WOW! Thanks for every wonder you have!

    • What a GREAT comment you left for us on this Wonder, Madison! Thanks so much for sharing what you liked about the video. We think it would be fun to try to eat that huge, tall candy cane, don’t you? :-)

    • Hi, Jerod! We’re so happy to know that you learned something new about candy canes by visiting this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think making candy canes from scratch sounds like a LOT of fun, too, Abby! Thank you for visiting this Wonder today! :-)

    • They are AWESOME, we agree, “2 Candy Cane Lovers!” Thanks so much for visiting this SWEET Wonder of the Day® today and leaving us a comment! :-)

    • WOHOO, we are so happy that we have been WONDERing about those cool shapes, SD! Thanks for sharing your very own Wonder– now we all have learned something new! :)

  7. Wonderopolis sent us here from can your tounge get stuck to a pole. Can you make one about Christmas cheesecake? Or when was cheesecake invented and by who? Or what is a recipe for Christmas cheesecake? Sorry but we love cheesecake!!!! Please respond fast! – H and G

  8. This video was very cool. I had a lot of fun reading and watching about candy canes history!
    Thanks for having such great videos!!

    • We’re so glad to know that our candy cane Wonder made you smile, Emily! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– we hope you’ll enjoy a candy cane or two this season! :)

  9. I learned so much about candy canes! I didn’t know that they are a caramel-colored goo before they emerge into a minty, fresh cane! Thank you for making that topic a wonder! I got so much new information from it! :)

    • We’re so glad to hear that you enjoyed our candy cane Wonder, Ella! There’s so much to learn about those delicious treats– we’re glad you’re here! HOORAY for WONDERing! :)

    • Hey there, Kathy! We’re so glad you enjoyed our Wonder about candy canes! We think candy canes are quite tasty, perhaps you can try a recipe (with a family member) that has peppermint in it?! Keep up the great WONDERing! :)

    • Alright, we’re so glad to hear that this Wonder was nominated by Anna- how cool that you visited us today to say hello, too! We are so happy to have a great community of Wonder Friends like you, your teacher, and her daughter! Thanks for sharing your comment– have a SUPER weekend, Christiana! We hope to Wonder with you again soon! :)

  10. I like candy canes and turtles .
    Wow I never knew this history it’s nice to see how they were made.
    I’m impressed by this website I learned sweet new things.

  11. I learned that people make candy canes by hand.
    I did not know that they used to be suger sticks and can’t be moist or they will melt.

    Thanks Wonderopolis!

    from Meredith

    • Hi Caitlyn! Candy canes are very popular around Christmas. According to the WONDER, because of the shepherds in the Nativity story, the choirmaster bent the candy sticks into canes to represent the shepherd’s crook. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How did candy canes get their shape?
  • Have candy canes always been striped?
  • Why are candy canes associated with Christmas?

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Try It Out

Candy canes are not only delicious, they’re also beautiful. Candy canes inspire all sorts of holiday-themed crafts.

Grab a few friends or family members and some art supplies. Make some hot cocoa, and try out a few of these fun candy cane crafts:

 

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In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Culture Goggles: Same Holy Land, Different Holidays lesson, children learn how people with different beliefs celebrate winter holidays.

 

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