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The Christmas candy cane and myths about its origin

25 mayo, 2021

When I was a child I always noticed when I saw Christmas movies and cartoons in those red and white candy canes, the candy cane. It seemed to be a must-have for Christmas and I was looking forward to having some, but they were impossible to find. Nowadays they are already sold in all kinds of stores, and it is that they have ended up being imported like so many other foreign products of these holidays. But, Where are you from?

Many people believe that they are another of those typical American products that spread throughout the planet, but the truth is that their origin dates back to the 18th century in Europe. exist many myths and beliefs around where and how they arose, and also regarding its possible symbolism, but the truth is that, to this day, it is not very clear how the typical and Christmas candy cane first appeared.

Candy canes

This sweet cane o candy cane is a hard candy whose traditional form presents a white color decorated with red spiral lines, and scented with mint. Today there are many versions with other colors, especially green, and also with other aromas and flavors. Since the end of the 19th century it has been linked to Christmas and is one of the most famous Christmas treats in the world.

There is widespread belief that canes have a meaning linked to Christianity: the white color would represent the purity of the Virgin or Jesus Christ, the red for her blood, and the stick shape would actually be a J, the initial of her name. In the United States, the myth also spread that its inventor was a candy maker from Indiana who wanted to honor Christ by celebrating his birth at Christmas.

If there are historical references to the 18th century candy cane, obviously that story can’t be true. Also, it is said that Christians used it to decorate their homes at Christmas secretly to avoid persecutions, but this also does not make sense since the persecutions of Christians had ended many centuries ago.

Candy canes

The most popular legend regarding its origin places it in the cathedral of the German city of Cologne. It is said that, in the 18th century, the choirmaster commissioned a pastry chef to make sweets for the children out of town, as they made a lot of fuss at Christmas celebrations. To justify the sweet caprice during the services, the teacher supposedly asked that they be shaped like a cane, to remind the children of the shepherds who visited the Child Jesus, or symbolizing Christ himself in his role as shepherd.

What does seem clear is that candy canes were created in Central Europe around the end of the 18th century, at least in their primitive state, and they reached American soil through immigration. It was not until the end of the 19th century, and especially in the early years of the 20th century, when the candy cane began to be associated with the Christmas festivities.

The funny thing is that this candy needed to be bent manually while it was still hot to give it the shape of a cane, which made it more expensive and slowed down its mass production. It was precisely a Catholic priest, Gregory Harding Keller, who invented a machine that he named after himself in order to automate the process to give the candies their characteristic stick-like appearance.

Candy cane or candy cane

Thus, it seems that stories that seek to give Christian meaning to candy cane they are nothing more than popular legends. Probably its exact origin does not have any magic or hidden meaning, but the truth is that its colors and shape make it an ideal sweet for Christmas.

I like to decorate the tree with a few candy canes, although I am not very fond of its traditional minty flavor. Its shape is perfect for hanging from tree branches or in other corners of the house, and its pretty bright colors can add a Christmas touch to many sweets if crushed and added to cookies or cakes. Have you incorporated the candy cane to your Christmas paraphernalia?

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