Why Candy Canes Are Red and White

A Christmastime favorite and nostalgia-inducing treat is the peppermint candy cane. So why are these candy canes red and white striped? For at least 176 years the candy cane has been sold in peppermint flavor with white and red stripes. The unofficial word about the color of stripes is based on traditional symbolism in Christianity. Below is a look at the symbolism, stories, and facts behind the candy cane’s classic colors. 

In 1844 an early recipe for peppermint candy notes colored stripes yet directs the cook to use whatever coloring powder is available. Twenty-two years later the candy cane is found in literature but no actual description of the flavor or color. The traditional theories and stories about the color and striping is centered around Christianity.

A popular version is that an Indiana candy maker incorporated several Christian symbols into the candy cane. The core of the candy cane was pure white to illustrate the virgin birth and Jesus’s sinless nature. Many versions also incorporate the white to embody the foundation of the Church and promises of God. The red stripes are indicative of the trinity and the blood of Christ (or Jesus’s sacrifice).

Some reports claim the stripes were a secret language among persecuted Christians in England and Germany during the 17th century. There is another claim that the red and white striped candy cane simply became the most popular choice at the start of the 20th century. It is also rumored the stripes were a simple way of marketing the stick to indicate the peppermint flavor when candy sticks became extremely popular in the 17th century. 

While stories of tradition and religion surround the candy cane, there is no mistaking its indelible mark. Candy canes in cane or stick shape can be found year-round in a wide variety of colors and flavors from apple and bacon to siracha and watermelon. You’re sure to find one that suits your taste buds, but the classic red and white peppermint will remain a favorite for years to come. 


Ace Collins (20 April 2010). Great Traditions of Christmas. Zondervan. Retrieved September 12, 3020. 

Eveleth, Rose. “We Don’t Know the Origins of the Candy Cane, But They Almost Certainly Were Not Christian“. Smithsonian. Retrieved: September 12, 2020. 

Kennedy, Lesley. “Who Invented Candy Canes?” History. Retrieved: September 11, 2020.Parkinson, Eleanor (1844). The complete confectioner, pastry … – Eleanor Parkinson – Google Books. Retrieved: September 12, 2020.

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