By Brian Roulston
The Candy Cane started out simply as a plain white sugary candy stick around the late 1400’s.
At the Cologne Cathedral in Germany 1647 the choirmaster was looking for a way to keep children from chattering while watching the long nativity scenes at the church. He knew that these white candy sticks were popular with children and thought by keeping them busy licking candy sticks that would do the trick, however… at the same time he wanted them to learn something of significance about nativity. He then asked the local candy maker to bend the sticks in the form of a shepherd’s staff or cane. This shape reminds us of the shepherds that came to worship Jesus. Not only that, if you turn the cane upside down it becomes the letter ‘J’ as in Jesus. Passing out these upgraded candy canes became a yearly Christmas tradition at the cathedral which then spread throughout Europe and America.
Fast forward 175 years to Christmas 1847 August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant, from Wooster, Ohio was documented as the first person to decorate a Christmas tree with candy canes along with other traditional ornaments of the time.
Through the 19th century white candy canes were featured on Christmas cards and perhaps with some Swedish influence peppermint was added to this confectionery.
It wasn’t until the early 1900’s when the familiar red stripes first appeared on candy canes.
Hamilton has a connection with candy canes and other holiday treats as Karma Candy on Emerald Street North is Canada’s only known makers of candy canes; and one of very few manufacturers left in North America.