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A candy cane is a cane-shaped stick candy often associated with Christmastide, as well as Saint Nicholas Day. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint, but they also come in a variety of other flavors and colors.
A record of the 1837 Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, where confections were judged competitively, mentions "stick candy". A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with coloured stripes, was published in 1844. The "candy cane" is found in literature in 1866, though no description of color or flavor was provided. The Nursery monthly magazine noted them in association with Christmas in 1874, and the Babyland magazine mentioned canes being hung on Christmas trees in 1882.
As with other forms of stick candy, the earliest canes were manufactured by hand. Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s. In 1919 in Albany, Georgia, Robert McCormack began making candy canes for local children and by the middle of the century, his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world's leading candy cane producers. Candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities; the canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line to create their curved shape and breakage often ran over 20 percent. McCormack's brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, was a seminary student in Rome who spent his summers working in the candy factory back home. In 1957, Keller, as an ordained Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, patented his invention, the Keller Machine, which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and cutting it into precise lengths as candy canes.
On Saint Nicholas Day celebrations, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas; crosiers allude to the Good Shepherd, an epithet associated with Jesus.
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