(USA Today) It's the candy that screams, "Holiday season."
Tuesday is National Candy Cane Day and legend has it that the hook-topped candy has been part of Christmas celebrations since 1670, according to the National Confectioners Association, which estimates that Americans will spend $1.93 billion on sweet holiday treats this year.
But the candy cane is as contemporary as ever. Not only is the classic peppermint version popular, but so are new takes, such as coffee, Oreo, soda, pickle and bacon flavors. You can even buy ones made out of pork skins for your dog.
"It's not just candy canes. It’s candy cane ice cream, candy cane lattes, candy cane marshmallows. Then, they’re gone and you wait for the next year," said Christine Couvelier, president of the food development firm Culinary Concierge. "It's a food memory for a lot of us. When you go to visit Santa Claus, you get a candy cane."
Here are five things to give your post-holiday brain a red-and-white minty boost:
The tradition goes back centuries
The "Christmas equals candy canes" idea predates the United States by more than 100 years. The tradition was born in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, because the choirmaster needed something to keep the child singers quiet during the long service, according to the National Confectioners Association. Credit for the bend at the top goes to him, too. He thought it would look like a shepherd's crook.
The red is relatively new
Back then, the sweet treat was an all-white stick, the organization said. The candy cane got its infusion of red only around the start of the 20th Century.
Candy canes go like hot cakes now
Ninety percent of candy canes sold each year are purchased between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the Washington, D.C.-based trade group said. Plus, these guys are the top-selling non-chocolate candy in December.
Candy canes are on trend
Starbucks has a candy cane-flavored whoopee pie and the Slime Box Club, a subscription-based service for people who are into the glue-based slime trend, offers a candy cane version of the stretchy, entertaining goo.
Both of those debuted this year, but there are plenty of products that return every year, like Pepperidge Farms' Candy Cane Milano cookies, Hershey's Candy Cane Bar, ChapStick lip balm and Yankee Candle Candy Cane Lane candles.
You can also find candy cane-flavored Peeps, Swiss Miss hot chocolate and Pop Rocks.
Look no further than your Christmas tree
The red and white candy sticks are a popular holiday decoration in the U.S., thanks to a German immigrant who'd moved to Wooster, Ohio, named August Imgard.
He's credited by some with introducing the Christmas tree to Americans, according to the Wooster Digital History Project, a project of the College of Wooster.
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