When--and how--did the candy cane originate? Legends abound about the popular treat, and many of the explanations involve religious themes. Some claim that in 1670, a choirmaster created the candy as a way to keep children quiet during Christmas services. A less plausible tale holds that the canes were a secret means of identification for persecuted European Christians.

Another story describes an Indiana candymaker who took a stick of white candy and bent it to form a hook. Turned one way, the cane represented "J" for "Jesus"; turned the other way, it represented a shepherd's staff, to remind the world that Jesus was the "shepherd of lost sheep." The legend holds that a thick red stripe was added to represent Jesus' blood while three thinner stripes represented lash wounds. The canes' peppermint flavor recalls the taste of hyssop, a leafy plant used for sacrificial ceremonies by ancient Hebrews and mentioned in the gospels' Passion narrative.

Though we'll probably never know the whole truth about candy canes, the links below delve more deeply into the debate.

Candy Cane Legend
Was it really invented by a candymaker in Indiana? Read about the meanings behind the shape, colors, and flavor of the Christmastime treat.

Bah Humbug
The candy cane legend is a myth, writes Barbara "the Cane Mutiny" Mikkelson on snopes.com.

Blessing of Candy Canes
"May these sweets, these candy canes, be a sign of Advent joy for us." Whether hung from a pine tree or put in a stocking, this blessing will help you remember the candy's symbolic meaning.
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