Candy canes are one of the most iconic foods of the Christmas season, and for many kids (and adults), Christmas without a candy cane is incomplete. They decorate trees, Santa Claus hand them out at the mall, new flavors are being invented all the time, and they come in sizes big enough to satisfy any craving. But what’s their history, and how did they come to be synonymous with Christmas?
In terms of the origin of candy canes, the legend is a lot more exciting than the likely reality. There are actually a couple origin stories floating around. One holds that an Indiana candy maker designed the candy with Christian iconography in mind: The hardness of the candy represents the foundation of the church, the white represents Jesus’ purity, the red represents his suffering, and the “J” shape represents both the name of Jesus and his staff. Another legend claims that it was invented by the choirmaster of Germany’s Cologne Cathedral in 1670 as a way to quiet down the restless children in the choir; the shape was supposedly intended to remind children of the shepherds who came to visit baby Jesus.
Sadly, both of those stories are untrue, according to Snopes. In reality, candy canes didn’t appear in their current form until the late 1800s after years of evolution, but nobody knows for sure why they’re curved or why they’re striped.
No matter the exact origins of the candy cane, it’s a classic Christmas treat that also happens to be a lot of fun to eat. And we bet that there’s a lot you don’t know about them. Read on for 10 fun facts about candy canes.