We all love Christmas candy. You may be surprised we’re eating antique sweets.

Some candy is forever. Many varieties qualify as antiques dating back to the late 1800s. Then Christmas adds another dimension. We all remember the sudden appearance of candy dishes and morsels of Mellowcremes tied in cheese-cloth bags in our stockings by the fire.

Americans regularly spend up to $2 billion a year on Christmas candy, from the finest chocolates to the most humble candy canes, according to the National Retail Federation.

Many of our nation’s great candy makers were Jewish. This is why packages of Christmas candy often come with a kosher label, meaning the products were manufactured under strict Jewish dietary laws. Nearly all of Hershey’s and Brach’s candy is kosher.

Are you ready for some sweet nostalgia? All of our favorites still are available at retail. Candy is one category that has stood the taste of time.


Tornadoes wrecked the plant. The Great Depression wrecked the market. Then, just as business improved, along came WWII and sugar rationing.

The survivor is Bobs Candy Co. of Albany, Ga., still known as the “Cadillac of candy canes.” Since 1919, Bobs has supplied this most iconic of Christmas’ candy, eventually nationwide.

Candy canes are a 17th Century German Christmas invention. The cane actually is a shepherd’s hook. Red stripes offer Christian symbolism and the peppermint flavor is rooted in a Biblical herb.

Bobs Candy Owner Bob McCormick’s business always was threatened by waste. Some 22 percent of the canes broke at the factory and were tossed out.

A Catholic priest rushed to the rescue in the 1950s. Father Harding Keller spent six months inventing a machine that twisted the molten candy into strips and then, gently, sheared them into sticks. Six years later, Bobs was the world’s largest peppermint candy producer.

Bobs crafts 2 million candy canes daily for Christmas. Year-around products include peppermint sticks and “pillows,” those bite size, puffed-up mints that melt on the tongue.

His candy has a reputation: It must contain enough peppermint to settle an unruly stomach.

12 canes for $3.50.


F.B. Washburn is the most prolific maker of an edible art form, the fantastically colored Christmas ribbon candy.

From his plant in Brockton, Mass., workers give life to the 1856 creation of Sevigny’s Thin Ribbon Candy Co. Washburn remains America’s oldest candy maker and markets Sevigny ribbons to major chains  including Walmart.

The candy is made in machines that stretch heated, pliable, molten sugar into long, exceptionally thin ribbons. The folds are added and the product cut into 6-to-8-inch lengths. Top quality is almost paper thin.

Ribbon candy has a very subtle, very sweet flavor. It often is purchased as a decoration for candy dishes.

Breakage always has been a threat.

Before plastic packaging, the strands were sold unwrapped.  Broken ribbons still produce sharp edges that can cut tongues.

Ribbon sales accelerated when protective plastic packaging was invented to keep the strands from cracking. Be aware, although the ribbons are beautiful in a glass dish, they must be kept covered or they will soon become a sticky, stale pile.

4 ounces for $4.95.


In the 1880s, George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Co. had his big idea. Mix corn syrup, honey and, yes, wax. Heat and pour into molds. There you have it — Mellowcremes.

The first were, and are, little orange pumpkins with green stems for Halloween. Next, he added Mellocreme candy corn, the same stuff still consumed today. Both were a hit, and Wunderlee could not satisfy demand.

As the business grew, so did the experiments with the new candy form. For Christmas, little green trees, reindeer and Santa heads quickly became a tradition. For Easter came the jelly bean, a close Mellowcreme cousin.

The Christmas candy is semi-soft and red, green and white in holiday symbols. Its satiny coating belies the soft, sweet candy underneath. Despite the bright colors, most Mellowcremes taste the same.

Top producers today are Jelly Belly and Brach’s.

4 ounces for $2.


Rock candy can be formed into molten sugar tubes with designs in the center and cut to bite size. The still-warm strands may be molded into bite-size pieces called pillows or into various Christmas shapes, producing the hard-rock candy so dangerous to teeth.

Its other, rarer form is pure cane sugar crystallized on sticks with flavors added. This is pure cane sugar processed to remove any impurities.

Rock candy may be the world’s first candy, dating to Ninth Century India. It was rolled out by hand on heated marble slabs.

It’s easy to tell if rock candy is not fresh. The old stuff  sticks to each other.

8 ounces for $1.75.


It seems all the leftover candy goes into the holiday mix bags. These primarily are jelly-filled, bite-size hard candy in greens, reds and stripes, with a few peppermints and spearmints thrown in for variety. Still, it can be anything, including Life Savers, M&Ms and mini Tootsie Rolls.

Holiday mixes, sold in bulk by the pound, always are surprises. Some may even contain wrapped candies. It’s whatever makes a customer happy.

9.5 ounce bag $2.99.