Candy canes originate from sugar-stick candy that people hung on Christmas trees in the 17th century. The original candy was straight and white, without any colored stripes.
Around 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany made the first cane-shaped sugar sticks. He designed them to resemble a shepherd's staff, and handed them out to children during nativity services. After the tradition spread from Germany to other European countries, candy makers began decorating them with sugar roses. A German immigrant named August Imgard brought the first candy canes to America. Beginning around 1847, he began decorating his Christmas trees with them in his home in Wooster, Ohio.
No one knows exactly when candy makers invented the first striped candy canes. The first images of candy canes with red and white stripes appear on Christmas cards from around 1900. Around this same time, candy makers added peppermint to candy canes, and this became the candy's traditional flavor. In the 1950s, a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller created a machine that automated the production of candy canes.
There are other theories about the design of the candy cane, although no historical evidence supports them. Some theories suggest that the red and white stripes symbolize the blood and purity of Christ. Another theory postulates that the hardness of the candy symbolizes the solid foundation of the Christian Church.