Celebrate the sweet symbol of the season: Candy canes

For millions of Americans, the candy cane is synonymous with Christmas. Whether used as tree decoration, taped to gifts or simply enjoyed during holiday get togethers, candy canes evoke memories of the wonders of childhood. So powerful is their appeal that consumers spent nearly $65 million last year on candy canes.

The modern candy cane's design originated from the symbol of the shepherd's crook, representing the humbler flock keepers who worshiped the newborn baby Jesus. Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral handed out sugar sticks to keep his young singers quiet during the Nativity ceremony. To honor the occasion, the candies were bent into shepherd's crooks.

In 1847, August Imgard of Wooster decorated a small blue spruce with candy canes and paper ornaments, but it wasn't until the turn of the century that the red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm.

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as a Christmas treat for his family and friends. His Famous Candy Company, later changed to Bobs Candies, began with only five employees who completed the laborious process of twisting, cutting and bending each candy cane by hand.

The first candy manufacturer to wrap its products in cellophane, Bobs quickly earned a reputation as a leader and innovator -- a tradition which has continued ever since. In the 1950s, McCormack's brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, invented a machine to automate candy cane production. Packaging innovations by the McCormacks also made it possible to transport the delicate canes on a scale that transformed the company into the leading candy cane producer in the world, a position Bobs Candies still holds today.

While peppermint canes are still the most popular, the company offers a wide variety of cane flavors and sizes, including designer canes in delicious flavors like strawberry, blueberry and bubble gum.