Christmas is the time for many things: family gatherings, festive feasts, ugly sweaters, Christmas movie marathons, and of course, candy. And as much as you’re an M&M devotee or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fan — let’s admit it — no candy showcases Christmas at its best better than candy cane. The distinctive, mouth-watering candy with its iconic red-and-white stripes often – if not always – creates a Christmassy vibe and stirs up those jolly Christmas moments we had growing up.

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Though it has been years after it was first invented, candy cane has come to symbolize more than just a piece of candy; the cane-shaped, sugar-made sticks continue to populate family Christmas trees as decorations, are used as an after-meal mouth freshener and are often found on any Christmas-related thingamabobs like pillows, Christmas stockings, and even women’s candy cane thigh-highs.

Dating back to the old days, however, candy cane served as more than just a peppermint-flavoured candy; what we refer to as Santa’s cane now was more than just what we perceive it to be. It’s time you got to know your candy so scroll down and read all about it before Christmas arrives.

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History: First a religious conference then a Christmas ornament

What you may not know is that candy cane was a significant religious symbol as much as it was a sweet delicacy. Like how most candy stories go, candy cane was first invented hundreds of years ago in Germany by the choirmaster in the hopes, first and foremost, to quiet the sounds of whining children during the church service. The cane-shaped candy, however, first came in a straight shape and in white only. It was not until later on that the choirmaster bent it to the liking of a shepherd’s crook or the letter “J” to represent Jesus and the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus. So, originally, the crook-shaped confection was more of a religious reference to the nativity of Jesus instead of just a jaw-aching sweet or a Christmas tree ornament.

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Due to its toothsomeness, the pulled sugar was all the rage throughout Europe and became highly associated with the season of being jolly and later on turned became the world’s candy of choice during Christmas time.

The Jesus-celebrating candy was then introduced to the US by August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant who landed the first sugar cane onto his Christmas trees. Then the candy cane multiplied in its popularity after the candy cane makers added the red and white strips as well as the cool peppermint flavour to the white-washed confection.

Image credit: Frosting And A Smile

Meanings of its shape and colours

Referred to as Santa’s cane, the candy cane’s shape and colours actually have nothing to do with the jolly white-bearded man. Many believe the white hue represents Christ’s purity while the red strips depict Christ’s holy blood. And the iconic “J” shape symbolizes the name of Jesus Christ. Some also believe its shape is created as a liking to the shepherd’s crook – which is reminiscent of the nativity of Jesus when the shepherds travelled to praise the spirited baby in Bethlehem.

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Candy cane in its 21st-century form

Candy cane was served as a church symbol then but with the 21st century bringing with it a festive makeover, the crook-shaped pulled candy is now as much a decoration as it is a dainty sweet. Some factories have switched from red-and-white shades and given candy cane a fresh change with colourful, assortments of colours.

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Some confection makers even pull the candy into different shapes and sizes just to add a new whimsical touch to a candy plate and on the Christmas tree. Even more surprising, the candy-cane design also makes for a festive theme for the party and makeup look, with many social media influencers jumping on the bandwagon.We hope you enjoyed our tale of candy cane and we here at Lifestyle Asia Bangkok are wishing you a Merry Christmas!

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Kankanit Wichiantanon
Writer, Bangkok
Kankanit is a writer by day and a baker by night. If there’s one thing you should know about her, it’s that she can wax poetic about food 24/7. Her daily routine is writing, cooking, eating, repeat. They are the things that inspire her from morning 'til night.