If you've shopped in a store anytime in the last month, you've probably seen display after display of candy canes. My family stopped at one of the red kettles and made a donation and the bell ringer offered my little boy a candy cane and it got me wondering about the origin of the candy, so I started digging for info.

While candy canes have been around for hundreds of years, folklore says they haven't always looked the way they do today. Apparently, candy canes haven't always had a hooked shape, and they haven't always had red swirls.

When they were first introduced, candy canes were straight sticks, all white and they didn't have a hook at the top. Christmas cards from the late 19th century seem to indicate that people were decorating for Christmas with an all-white hooked candy cane, but then when the early 20th century rolled around, candy canes started showing up on Christmas cards with red stripes.

One story says that when it started becoming popular for people to display Christmas trees in Europe in the late 1600s, people were looking for something to decorate their trees with. Rumor has it a choirmaster is the one who revolutionized the candy as we know it. The choirmaster was from Germany and was the first to put the hooks in the canes to make them look more like a shepherd’s staffs (and perhaps to make it easier for them to hang from trees).

Many people also believe that the hook also symbolizes the 'J' in the name 'Jesus' and that it serves as a symbol of the story of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd,” watches over his flock, however, this fact hasn't ever been confirmed. Also not confirmed? That the choirmaster was the first to put hooks on the candy canes. 

Regardless of who first made the candy cane, it soon became a tradition to give them out to children during the holiday season as well as to hang them from trees as decoration. A tradition that remains strong to this day.

The candy cane sure has come a long way over the years and the mystery surrounding the exact origins is still made of stories that can't be proven, but even so, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without the candy cane!

[via NoelNoelNoel/Today I Found Out/Inventors]