There's just something special about this time of the year, with all the traditions that go along with the celebration of Christmas. The symbol of the candy cane is no exception.

Today's candy canes, as we know them, have come a long way from their humble beginnings.

It all started around 400 years ago in Europe, when people started the tradition of Christmas trees. They began decorating them with fruit, mostly apples, an occasional cookie or two and of course, candy.

In 1670,  a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany took a plain stick of white candy and gave it to each child that attended the annual nativity services. His motive was to keep the kids quiet, but he also bent the candy into the shape of a shepherd's staff to go along with the spirit of the services. This caught on in a hurry and soon the custom of passing out these candy crooks at the yearly ceremony spread all over Europe.

Fast-forward to America in 1847, when a German immigrant living in Ohio, named August Imgard, decorated his Christmas tree with the sweet treats. Some 50 years later, the first candy canes with red stripes started to show up. The flavors of peppermint and wintergreen were also integrated into the candy making it the sweet Christmas treat as we know it today.

Credit: Jon Helgason, ThinkStock

There is also a belief that the candy cane has a religious symbolism. The color white represents Christ’s purity, the red, the blood he shed, and the presence of three red stripes, the Holy Trinity.

There you have it!  As, the late Paul Harvey might say, "Now you know the rest of the story."