Were they always flavored peppermint? We don't know! But, the candy canes that we've always known to be striped red & white, (or now comes in many colors and flavors), didn't really begin until the turn of century- around 1900. Here in America, the first documented account we have of candy canes was in 1847 Ohio, when a German immigrant was noted to have decorated his Christmas tree with them. But, even in our first printed illustrations of the candy cane, (circa late 1800's-1920's), they were solid white in color! At the turn of the century when candy manufacturers wanted to mass produce the candy canes in the shape they are today, they had a high amount of product loss- due to the fact that before machines were used, the peppermint sticks were all shaped by hand! Bob's Candy Canes, (now owned by the Ferrara Candy Co.), are the largest manufacturer in the world of candy canes today, as well as the first company to use the machines invented to mass produce the "cane" shaped treats! Interestingly, the very first machine invented and patented to form the "J" shape was developed by Lt. Bob McCormack's brother-in-law- a Catholic priest by the name of George Keller. He helped out quite a bit with the production of candy canes for the family business, and wanted to find a better way of producing them to cut down on the breakage of canes!
Some more interesting facts on this historic confectionery:
* The cane turned upside down looks like the letter "J"- which Christians symbolize to represent the birth of "Jesus"
* The first striped candy canes were produced around 1900
* The traditional flavor of the candy cane is Peppermint, which is similar to the ancient flavor of "hyssop" (also in the mint family). Hyssop was referred to in the Old Testament as having been used for purification and sacrifice, and also symbolizes Jesus's purity, and the sacrifices he made for us.
* Christians symbolize candy canes as:
The candy is hard as a "rock"- which symbolizes the foundation of the church.
The shape of the "crook" is like Jesus- the "Good Shepard" who watches over all of his children like lambs.
The color of white represents Jesus's purity and his virgin birth, the red is known to symbolize his blood, as well as God's love. Canes with 3 fine stripes are thought to represent the Holy Trinity.
* On December 26th in the U.S. "National Candy Cane Day" is celebrated.
Candy canes are delicious, (they come in ALL kinds of flavors now!), available almost everywhere this time of the year, pretty to look at, and a true symbol of the Christmas holiday!