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The Stories Behind Christmas Candy

Updated on December 9, 2016

Ready to Read About The Best Christmas Candy?

Everyone has their own opinion about candy (and everything else), and here are my own choices for the greatest and most unforgettable Christmas candy of all time. Of course "the best" is a matter of opinion, but as a candy fanatic I can at least give you something to think about. Some of my choices come from my childhood (I was born in the early 1960s), when my brother and I looked forward to Christmas candy as almost the best part of the holiday. This list, then, is for anyone who likes their Christmases sweet.

image: By Stfan Le D from Nantes, France (Berlingots) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Best Christmas Candy -- Chocolate Santa

Chocolate is chocolate, no matter what shape it's in, but there are two shapes that seem to make it just a little better: Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. Load up on some Santa chocolate and see what I mean.

The first Chocolate Santas arrived in America from Europe in the 19th century. St Nicholas was an actual person, a wealthy and respected saint who helped poor people. Santa Claus's Germanic name was Sant Nikolaus One part of the Santa Claus legend involved stories of him flying through the air in a carriage drawn by flying horses. One variation has him dressed as a Bishop, accompanied by a short figure known only as "Black Peter," who punished naughty children. This is, presumably, the beginning of the Naughty List, and as Santa's role as a judgmental, god-like figure who "sees you when you're sleeping, and knows when you're awake." Act up, youngsters, and you'll find a bag of coal under the tree (and probably not the sweet candy coal you can buy here from Amazon!).

How the Candy Cane Got Its Hook

The first candy canes, which popped up almost 400 years ago, were straight and had no stripes. Then, in the 1600's they began to be incorporated into Christian customs as part of their Christmas tree celebration; the crook at the top evolved as a way of recalling the shape of a shepherd's staff -- and as we all know, "the good shepherd" is another way to refer to Jesus. The new, crook-topped canes were also easier to hang on the branches of Christmas trees.

But the canes were still white, and it wasn't until the beginning of the 1900s that the stripes appeared. No one seems to know who added them -- the stripes just kind of appeared in pictures about that time. At about the same time, candy canes became associated with peppermint and wintergreen flavors, though nowadays the typical candy cane os, of course, peppermint.

Over time, other ideas have popped up to explain the reasoning behind the candy cane shape and color. Some contend that that "J" shape symbolizes Jesus, and that the white and red stripes are symbols of blood and purity. While this may be true, it's more likely that the shape and color evolved for less poetic reasons.

The Best Christmas Candy -- Almond Bark

Ah, almond bark -- candy that mom made, and to this day I don't know how she made it so transcendent. Starting with those square-ish blocks that come in a kind of ice-cube tray, and a big can of salted almonds, she made candy that put major manufacturers to shame. How did she do it?

By the way, a close second to almond bark is chocolate covered pretzels, one of my favorite things in the world.

The M&M Story

Every year, M&M's releases specialty candies in Christmas red and green. Maybe Santa Claus hides M&M's around your house on Christmas eve, or maybe he just loads them by the handful into those stockings hung by the chimney with care. M&M's are the single most popular candies in the world. They were invented in the 1930s by Frrest Mars, Sr, the founder of the Mars Candy Company. He observed soldiers in the Spanish Civil War eating chocolate bits covered in a candy shell to keep them from melting. He turned the candy and manufacturing p[rocess into one of the grandest successes of American industry.

The Best Christmas Candy -- Holiday Chocolate Kisses

After Lindor truffles, Hershey's kisses provide the chocolate bliss that every real Christmas needs. Growing up, I remember the cut-glass candy bowl in my grandmother's house at Christmastime, always full of chocolate kisses -- how did she keep it perpetually full? Chalk it up to the magic of Christmas, I guess...

By IvoShandor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Best Christmas Candy -- Lindor Truffles

I don't know about you, but in my family Lindor truffles are a highlight of the Christmas Candy bowl. I love the way the color of the wrapper tells you the flavor, and I love the size -- a perfect blast of chocolate holiday sweetness.

By David Pickavant from Lancaster, United Kingdom (White) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Best Christmas Candy -- Kaitami Coal

The tradition of Santa bringing coal to naughty children dates back to the 18th century, when European traditions of an elf or a saint who brought gifts to children began to arise. Kris Kringle, another name for Santa Claus, gets his name from the Germanic term "Krist Kindle," which means "Christ Child."

In America, the idea that Santa Claus arrived on a sleigh and come through the chimney was cemented by the work of Clement MArk Moore, who published "The Night Before Christmas" in 1823. Many of the specific details of the Santa legend began with this work.

By Dddeco (Dddeco) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

The Best Christmas Candy -- Honorable Mention

Christmas Cookies!

Okay, they're not candy, but I included Christmas cookies here on the grounds that (1) they sometimes have candy bits on them, and (2) they're delicious. Have a Merry Christmas -- and have a cookie!

By Stacy (originally posted to Flickr as Sugar cookies) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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