Candy canes are one of the most recognizable symbols (and foods) of the entire holiday season. While most people wouldn’t consider a Christmas complete with the red and white striped sticks, few people know much about their long history. Whether you use one to stir your hot chocolate or just hang them on your tree, here are 10 fun facts about this iconic candy.

1. They are very old

The first reference to candy canes in America dates back to 1847 when a German immigrant from Wooster, Ohio decorated his Christmas tree with the festive candy. Candy canes weren’t commonly hung on trees until 1882, but the first candy canes predate these events by a few hundred years…

2. origins

Folklore says that in Cologne, Germany in 1670, a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral, wishing to keep the local children quiet during the Living Creche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a candy maker to form some type of “sugar stick” for them…

3. Religious representation

To justify the expense and practice of creating this candy, the choirmaster asked the candy maker to make them white in color and shape them like a “J.” It is believed that the “J” shape of the candy cane, as well as the original pure white color, were meant to represent Jesus.

4. Different design

That means that the original candy canes were straight sticks and lacked the iconic curve and stripes of today. These first sweet treats were an all white hard candy.

5. Seeing stripes

Red and white stripes weren’t added to candy canes until around 1900.

6. Innovation

Candy canes were then made for centuries by hand, until 1921, when Brasher O. Westerfield invented a machine that could churn out the candy canes automatically. Thirteen years later, another inventor, Robert I. Strongin of Chicago, Illinois, claimed his machine was more economical and also claimed a patent for a machine that could make candy canes. His patent describes the device as a “machine which will receive the heated and elongated sticks of candy material from which the canes are produced and which will first cut the same and uniform lengths and then produce the desired bend.”

7. they’re incredibly popular

Today, nearly 2 billion candy canes are produced each year, and almost all of them are sold within the four weeks leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah.

8. Fun flavors

Traditional candy canes are flavored with peppermint, but modern times have seen every flavor from green apple to pickles.

9. sweet stats

The average candy cane is 5 inches and weigh about a half an ounce. They also don’t have any fat or cholesterol and the standard size has only about 50 calories each.

10. size matters

The world’s largest candy cane was built in Geneva, Illinois by chef Alain Roby in 2012. The candy cane was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar and now holds the Guinness World Record.  

11. Peppermint Pick-me-up

Peppermint candy canes are touted for some substantial health benefits including aiding in gastrointestinal discomfort, curbing cravings, easing headaches, relieving stuffy noses, and of course, freshening breath.

12. Iconic Candy

National Candy Cane Day is celebrated every December 26 in the United States. With the holiday over, take those decorative canes from around the house and use them in all kinds of recipes. Crush them on top of cookies, brownies, cheesecake, puppy chow and more.

Also see, the most popular Christmas candy in each state. 

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.