Where do candy canes come from?

image of gingerbread houses

Learn more about the surprising history of candy canes and other favorite holiday sweets.

Few things say “holidays” like sweets. From candy canes to gingerbread houses, the festive holiday season is full of opportunities to enjoy sweet and nostalgic flavors. Here at Sunnyside Manor, we’re going all out!

Whether you’re 2 or 102, little holiday indulgences make big memories. See a sampling of our sweet holiday events, and read along for interesting history and trivia about your favorite holiday sweets and desserts.

Holiday Foods Trivia and Origins

Candy Canes

image of smiling family at holiday brunch

Refreshing, minty candy canes originated in Germany in the 1670s, where a choir director gave sugar sticks to fidgety choirboys to keep them quiet during Christmas services.

The iconic hook shape and stripes are more recent inventions. How the hook shape emerged is lost to time: it may have been intended to represent a shepherd’s crook, or the hook shape simply may have made the candies easier to use as decorations. Traditionally, candy canes were all white. They did not take on their iconic stripes until they were mass produced more recently.

Candy first appeared in the U.S. in 1847, on the decorated tree of August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, OH.


image of smiling resident at holiday brunchEggnog most likely is derived from “posset,” a warm ale punch with eggs and figs enjoyed by British monks in the 13th century. Eventually, recipes for this drink combined with recipes for milk and wine punches served at social gatherings.

By the 17th century, sherry was the primary ingredient in eggnog. Eggnog became a drink of the wealthy, due to the scarcity of milk and eggs at the time. This likely also is when the drink became associated with Christmas. As a sweet, warm drink, it was ideal for toasting the colder season and holiday.

In the Americas, eggnog evolved into the popular rum-based drink it is today. Milk and eggs were more widely available in the colonies, and rum from the Caribbean was less expensive than liquors from England.


Here is some fun trivia for holiday gatherings: not only does the history of cheesecake go back thousands of years, but cheesecake is not even really cake! (It’s a pie.)
image of smiling resident at holiday brunch
While it is unclear how cheesecake became a tradition at Christmas dinners, the long history of cheesecake is well documented. Cheesecake originated in Greece around 2000 B.C.E. In ancient times, cheesecake was used for everything from wedding cake to an energy boosting snack for Olympians!

The first written cheesecake recipe, from about 230 C.E., calls for cheese, wheat flour, and honey. During the Roman Empire, cheesecake recipes spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Different regional variations incorporated eggs and other ingredients.

Cheesecake came to the U.S. with European immigrants, but did not include what many consider a signature ingredient – cream cheese – until the late 1800s. (Cream cheese was invented in 1872.) The modern version of American cheesecake, the New York style cheesecake, was developed by Arnold Reuben, who also invented the Reuben sandwich!

Gingerbread Houses

image of gingerbread houses

Like cheesecake, the first recipes for gingerbread came from Greece about four thousand years ago. Variations of gingerbread emerged in China in the 10th century and spread across Europe, thanks both to the delicious flavor and known medicinal properties of ginger.

Decorated gingerbread was a staple of medieval fairs in Europe. Gingerbread houses became popular in Germany in the 16th century, around the time that The Brothers Grimm published the story of Hansel and Gretel. However, it is not clear whether the story or the gingerbread houses came first!

Gingerbread came to the U.S. with English colonists, and it was wildly popular here, too. In fact, it was so popular and appealing that free gingerbread was used in attempt to influence voters in early elections!

What holiday treats are on the menu at Sunnyside Manor?

We have great holiday meals and treats on the menu this holiday, including cheesecake and eggnog! Plus, we’re offering fun, food-related events all throughout the holiday season. Our menu and activities are resident driven, with a little something to suit every taste.

All of us at Sunnyside Manor wish you a sweet and happy holiday season!

Learn More About Why Families Rely On Sunnyside Manor

When it is time to make decisions about senior living, we are here to help. Sunnyside Manor offers assisted living, memory support, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, begin with our “Getting Started” guide. Please call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.

Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care and Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.

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