December 26th is National Candy Cane Day! According to popular belief, the candy cane was invented in Cologne, Germany in 1670 by a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral. The clergyman was seeking a way to appease the children during Christmas Eve’s long-winded Living Crèche tradition, and asked a local candy maker to create the hard candy sticks. Intending to use the candy as a teaching tool, he asked for the sticks to be created entirely in white to represent Jesus’s purity, and for a crook to be added to the top of each one to help the children remember the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus. The practice of handing out the candy during Christmas Eve services spread throughout Europe and by the 1800′s candy cane were also being used to decorate Christmas trees. They gained their red stripes sometime during the 1900s, when they also became available in today’s popular peppermint and wintergreen flavors.
There are so many wonderful things about the winter holidays and many of them happen to be delicious treats. Every year there’s an abundance of fudge, glasses brimming with egg nog, and an assortment of cookies and pies. But then there are also the simple sweet pleasures: candies like taffy, ribbon candy, and of course, candy canes. Chris and I have been known to consume an unforgivable number of candy canes during winters past. He really likes the off-beat flavors that come in gaudy, un-Christmasy colors, while I prefer the traditional peppermint variety. And although he can suck on the same candy cane for a substantial length of time, I’m a chewer and end up going through mine in just a couple of minutes. Either way, we both love candy canes. They’re sweet, they’re delicious, and they’re versatile — anybody who’s had Chick-fil-A’s Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake knows how excellent any drink is once it’s topped with crushed candy canes! And candy canes even make great swizzle sticks!
So, now that I’ve gone on and on about this mouth-watering candy, here’s the surprising thing: Chris and I somehow made it through Christmas Eve, and even Christmas Day this year, without eating a single candy cane! I guess we were just so busy getting ready for the Christmas Eve family gathering we hosted, that we didn’t take any time to enjoy the season the way we usually do. Most years I like to spend as much time as possible in the living room, cuddled on the couch while the fireplace blazes, with the Christmas treee twinkling and a cup of hot cocoa (candy cane swizzle stick preferred) in hand — not behind the vaccuum cleaner.