Why does that ubiquitous Christmastime candy, the candy cane, have a bend in it? Here are three possible reasons:
1. Form Follows Function
As an industrial designer, I always assumed the bend in a candy cane was for a functional reason: So that you could hang it from the branches of a Christmas tree.
2. It’s a Metaphor
One popular legend has it that a German choirmaster in Cologne commissioned the design of candy canes from a local confectioner in 1670. The story goes that he wanted to hand them out to the kids to keep them quiet during the Christmas service, but was aware that candy had no place in the sober environment of a church; thus he supposedly asked the confectioner to make them resemble shepherds’ canes, to “serve as a way for the children to remember the story of the shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus.”
3. It’s a Bloody, Inverted Letter “J”
Another story, which sounds totally apocryphal, has it that an Indiana-based candymaker invented candy canes to “[incorporate] several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.” This version of the origin has it that it was shaped like a “J” for “Jesus,” and that the red stripes represent “the scourging Jesus received” and “the blood shed by Christ on the cross.”
So which version is true? Snopes.com debunks #2 and #3, so as a biased ID’er, I’m going to stick with #1.