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A candy cane emulates the shape of the crozier, or shepherd's crook, carried by Catholic bishops as a symbol of office.
The candy-cane-shaped crozier is one of the particular symbols of Saint Nicholas, the 4th Century Bishop of Myra who partly inspired the legend of Santa Claus.
One oft-told story about the origin of the candy cane dates to Germany in the 17th Century.
According to the version of the tale told at CandyUSA! it was the choirmaster at the cathedral in Cologne who made the first candy canes, in about 1670. He bent sugar sticks into the shape of a shepherd's crook and gave them to his young singers, as a treat and to help keep them quiet during long Christmas services.
Candy canes remained simple, white sugary confections for more than two centuries. Only early in the 1900s did they acquire their red stripes and peppermint flavoring. But because they were made by hand, the supply of candy canes was limited. Finally, in the 1950s, a Catholic priest invented machinery to shape, bend, fold and stripe candy canes, enabling greatly expanded production -- and popularity. (The device that bends the canes into the shape of a shepherd's crook is called, naturally, a "crooker.")
The National Confectioners Association (overseers of the CandyUSA! Web site) counts an annual production of 1.76 billion candy canes. Although they now are produced in variety of colors and flavors, peppermint with red-with-white-stripes remains the favorite of modern traditionalists.
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