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The 17th Century Origins of the Candy Cane

Candy-Cane-ClassicFor some people, Christmas is all about the foods, for others, a single piece of candy cane or the scent of pine can bring them back to their childhood holidays. It is no stretch to suggest that the Candy Cane is one of the most Christmasized of all candies– probably because it was created for the season and is fraught with meaning for those who choose to look for it.

According to legend, they have a German history, but given the German origins of the British monarchy during Jane Austen’s life, it’s not a stretch to think that the treat might have been brought over to England, along with the Christmas tree and other, older traditions, like the Yule Log. Did Jane enjoy stick candy or candy canes? We may never know.


“According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity. As such, according to this legend, the candy cane became associated with Christmastide.

A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with coloured stripes, was published in 1844 in The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson. The “candy cane” has been mentioned by name in literature since 1866.

Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s. Meanwhile, in 1919 in Albany, Georgia, Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local children. By the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. But candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities. The canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line in order to create their ‘J’ shape, and breakage often ran over 20 percent. It was McCormack’s brother-in-law, a seminary student in Rome named Gregory Harding Keller, who used to spend his summers back home working in the candy factory. In 1957, as an ordained Roman Catholic Christian priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, Keller patented his invention, the Keller Machine which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and then cutting them into precise lengths as candy canes.


In celebration of Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas; crosiers themselves allude to the Good Shepherd, a title associated with Jesus.”

Pulled Peppermint Candy Sticks (1844)

Clove, Ginger, or Peppermint Candy.—These are all made in the same way as raspberry, using the essential oil of each for flavour. For clove, the mixture, whilst boiling, is coloured with cochineal; ginger with saffron; but the peppermint must be kept perfectly white, except the stripes, which is done by cutting off as many pieces from the bulk as you have colours, which should be in powder; put a sufficiency in each piece to give the desired tint, and keep them warm. When the remaining portion of the sugar is pulled, lay them over the surface in narrow stripes, double the roll together, and the face each way will be alike. Pull them out into long sticks, and twist them; make them round by rolling them under the hand, or they may be cut into small pieces with a pair of shears or scissors.

Raspberry Candy.—This may either be made from raw or refined sugar. Boil it to the crack, and colour it with cochineal; pour it on a stone rubbed over with a little oil or butter, cut off a small piece, and keep it warm to stripe or case the other part, when finished; to the remainder add a little tartaric acid (not so much as for drops), and some raspberry-paste, sufficient to flavour it. The residue of raspberries used for making vinegar, and preserved with an equal quantity of sugar, or even less, as for raspberry cakes, does very well for this purpose. Fold the edges over into the centre, and attach it to a hook fixed against the wall: pull it towards you, throwing it on the hook each time after having pulled it out; continue doing this until it gets rather white and shining, then make it into a compact long roll, and either stripe it with the piece you cut off, or roll it out in a sheet with a rolling-pin, and wrap it round it so as to form a sort of case; then pull it into long narrow sticks, and cut them the required length.

Historical information from, recipe from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson.

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The Nutcracker and the Mouse King: A Classic Christmas Tale

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (German: Nussknacker und Mausekönig) is a story written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann, a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror, composer, music critic,  and caricaturist.

In the tale, young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas père‘s adaptation of the story into the ballet The Nutcracker, which became one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions, and perhaps the most popular ballet in the world.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Classical Ballet Peter Tchaikovsky “The Nutcracker” (ballet in two acts)by the world famous Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet and Opera theatre

Hoffmann’s story begins on Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. Marie, seven years old, and her brother Fritz, eight, sit outside the parlor speculating about what kind of present their godfather Drosselmeier, who is a clockmaker and inventor, has made for them. They are at last allowed into the parlor, where they receive many splendid gifts, including Drosselmeier’s, which turns out to be a clockwork castle with mechanical people moving about inside it. However, as the mechanical people can only do the same thing over and over without variation, the children quickly tire of it. At this point, Marie notices a Nutcracker doll, and asks whom he belongs to. Her father tells her that he belongs to all of them, but that since she is so fond of him she will be his special caretaker. Marie, her sister Louise, and her brother Fritz pass the Nutcracker among them, cracking nuts, until Fritz tries to crack a nut that is too big and hard, and the Nutcracker’s jaw breaks. Marie, upset, takes the Nutcracker away and bandages him with a ribbon from her dress.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, illustrated by Gail De Marcken

When it is time for bed, the children put their Christmas gifts away in the special cupboard where they keep their toys. Fritz and Louise go up to bed, but Marie begs to be allowed to stay with Nutcracker a while longer, and she is allowed to do so. She puts Nutcracker to bed and tells him that Drosselmeier will fix his jaw as good as new. At this, the Nutcracker’s face seems momentarily to come alive, and Marie is frightened, but she then decides it was only her imagination.

The grandfather clock begins to chime, and Marie believes she sees Drosselmeier sitting on top of it, preventing it from striking. Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King. Marie, startled, slips and puts her elbow through the glass door of the toy cupboard. The dolls in the cupboard come alive and begin to move, Nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie’s ribbon on as a token. The battle at first goes to the dolls, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice. Marie, seeing Nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, takes off her shoe and throws it at the Mouse King, then faints.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Marie wakes the next morning with her arm bandaged and tries to tell her parents about the battle between the mice and the dolls, but they do not believe her, thinking that she has had a fever dream caused by the wound she sustained from the broken glass. Drosselmeier soon arrives with the Nutcracker, whose jaw has been fixed, and tells Marie the story of Princess Pirlipat and Madam Mouserinks, who is also known as the Queen of the Mice, which explains how Nutcrackers came to be and why they look the way they do.

The Queen of the Mice tricked Pirlipat’s mother into allowing her and her children to gobble up the lard that was supposed to go into the sausage that the King was to eat at dinner that evening. The King, enraged at the Mouse Queen for spoiling his supper and upsetting his wife, had his court inventor, whose name happens to be Drosselmeier, create traps for the Mouse Queen and her children.

The Mouse Queen, angered at the death of her children, swore that she would take revenge on the King’s daughter, Pirlipat. Pirlipat’s mother surrounded her with cats which were supposed to be kept awake by being constantly stroked, however inevitably the nurses who stroked the cats fell asleep and the Mouse Queen magically turned the infant Pirlipat ugly, giving her a huge head, a wide grinning mouth and a cottony beard, like a nutcracker. The King blamed Drosselmeier and gave him four weeks to find a cure. At the end of four weeks, Drosselmeier had no cure but went to his friend, the court astrologer.

They read Pirlipat’s horoscope and told the King that the only way to cure her was to have her eat the nut Crackatook (Krakatuk), which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling. The King sent Drosselmeier and the astrologer out to look for the nut and the young man, charging them on pain of death not to return until they had found them.

The two men journeyed for many years without finding either the nut or the man, until finally they returned home and found the nut in a small shop. The man who had never been shaved and never worn boots turned out to be Drosselmeier’s own nephew. The King, once the nut had been found, promised his daughter’s hand to whoever could crack the nut. Many men broke their teeth on the nut before Drosselmeier’s nephew finally appeared. He cracked the nut easily and handed it to the princess, who swallowed it and immediately became beautiful again, but Drosselmeier’s nephew, on his seventh backward step, trod on the Queen of the Mice and stumbled, and the curse fell on him, giving him a large head, wide grinning mouth and cottony beard; in short, making him a Nutcracker. The ungrateful Princess, seeing how ugly Drosselmeier’s nephew had become, refused to marry him and banished him from the castle.

Marie, while she recuperates from her wound, hears the King of the Mice whispering to her in the middle of the night, threatening to bite Nutcracker to pieces unless she gives him her sweets and her dolls. For Nutcracker’s sake, Marie sacrifices her things, but the Mouse King wants more and more and finally Nutcracker tells Marie that if she will just get him a sword, he (the Nutcracker) will finish him off. Marie asks Fritz for a sword for Nutcracker, and he gives her the sword of one of his toy hussars. The next night, Nutcracker comes into Marie’s room bearing the Mouse King’s seven crowns, and takes her away with him to the doll kingdom, where Marie sees many wonderful things. She eventually falls asleep in the Nutcracker’s palace and is brought back home. She tries to tell her mother what happened, but again she is not believed, even when she shows her parents the seven crowns, and she is forbidden to speak of her “dreams” anymore.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

As Marie sits in front of the toy cabinet one day, looking at Nutcracker and thinking about all the wondrous things that happened, she can’t keep silent anymore and swears to the Nutcracker that if he were ever really real she would never behave as Princess Pirlipat behaved, and she would love him whatever he looked like. At this, there is a bang and she falls off the chair. Her mother comes in to tell her that godfather Drosselmeier has arrived with his young nephew. Drosselmeier’s nephew takes Marie aside and tells her that by swearing that she would love him in spite of his looks, she broke the curse on him and made him handsome again. He asks her to marry him. She accepts, and in a year and a day he comes for her and takes her away to the Doll Kingdom, where she is crowned queen and eventually marries the Prince.


Excerpted from
Illustrations from: The Nutcracker And The Mouse King

  • Author E.T.A. Hoffmann
  • Illustrator Gail de Marcken
  • Reading level: Ages 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Orchard Books (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545037735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545037730
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The influence of Jane Austen’s social background on two of her novels


He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”
-Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s Social Background:

jane austen's social backgroundJane Austen: The gentleman’s daughter
Jane Austen and her family had their place in the gentry within the social class system in England. The gentry were the growing middle class which included the lower nobility and the “bourgeoisie” (land owning middle class).[1]

The “gentry” was a wide class with people with different fortunes in it. There were some with a vast wealth and others “at the lower end of the class”.[2]

According to the word gentry, the men in this class were called gentlemen. A man who owned at least 300 acres of property and lived off the money, he earned from this lands was allowed to call himself a gentleman.[3]

Nevertheless, new groups of gentlemen who did not own land rose up to the “long-established and highly respectable class”.[4]In the first place these were the businessmen, but also Anglican clergymen and army and navy officers.[5]

Behaviour was deemed to be a component of everyone`s personality. Good behaviour included in addition to the right manners, specific forms of address. Children had to say “Madam” and “Sir” to their parents and relatives employed “Miss”, “Mrs” and “Mr” to address someone in their family. In the majority of cases married couples used their last names.[6]

Fellow human beings rated the manners of others, so it was very important to use the right manners. In particular, women had to be accomplished. But mostly they just could be cultivated in certain elements. The manners included an interest in the arts (music, drawing, dancing), polite form of uses, expression in one`s face and eyes, acceptable clothing, elegance in one`s movements, gestures and attitudes. Besides this, they had to have the ability to behave correctly in every circle.[7]

The inheritance law of this time was simple. If the father died, the eldest son or the next male kinsman got everything. The other male children only had a few options besides handcraft, if they wanted to do something without being burdened by work. They could follow God`s call and become a clergyman. But if the church was not right for them, the army or the navy were also acceptable choices. If nothing of this enthused them, they went to Oxford or Cambridge and studied law.[8]

In contrast women did not have so many choices. The most common option was to marry. The other one was to stay with her parents or go to another family as a lady`s companion or a governess.[9]

At this time Protestantism was the official religion in England and landowners were dealing with the associated livings.

A clergyman did not have to study theology, because most got their living through relations or they inherited it. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge were not known as good ones, because the university education was not the focal point of a student`s life. Furthermore, dealings and connections were more helpful for the qualification for the function of a reverent than academic studies. Pastors decided for themselves whether they wanted to limit their lives for ethical reasons, because there were no restrictions.[10]

Each living was owned by a patron, who sold the living. The price depended on the tithes from the religious community and the glebe, which belonged to the living. The glebe was often under lease. If the patron did not want a Pastor`s son to get the living, the patron could sell it. Dealing with these livings was unconventional, but normal at this time.[11]

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice
The influence of Jane Austen’s social background is shown in some characters and situations in her novel “Sense and Sensibility”.

First of all the inheritance law was picked up in the story. The Dashwood’s have to leave Norland Park, because Mr. Henry Dashwood inherits his father’s fortune, which was absolutely normal at this time, but unfair on Elinor, Marianne and the youngest sister Margaret.

Jane knew and wrote about the professions men in her time had. This point was also noticed by Christian Grawe and he wrote it down in his book Darling Jane. She lets Edward Ferrars list up the opportunities he has and the problem between him and his family, which arise because of their disagreement:

We never could agree in our choice of profession. I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel enough; many young men, who had chambers in the Temple, made a very good appearance in the first circles, and drove about town in very knowing gigs. But I had no inclination for the law, even in this less abstruse study of it, which my family approved. As for the navy, it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the subject was first started to enter it- (…) I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since.[1]

Furthermore, Jane was aware of the parliamentary system. She depicted Mr. Palmer as a socially privileged candidate for parliament in an electoral ward. Mr. Palmer is the husband of Mrs. Jennings`s daughter, who is Sir John`s mother in law. Mrs. Jennings`s son-in-law is totally unsuitable, because it is hard for him to be nice to the voter, who he has invited.[2]

Whether this is Jane’s opinion of politicians is not clear, but it is obvious, that she must have known someone who acted like Mr. Palmer.

As a person in the gentry, Jane was acquainted with the forms of address, which is also evident in Sense and Sensibility. As Mr. Willoughby calls Marianne by her first name, Elinor thinks that they were secretly engaged.[3]

Another influence of the gentry on this novel is their dealings with livings. As Mr. John Dashwood hears that Colonel Brandon has given the living, which belongs to his ownership, to Mr. Ferrars, he cannot believe this and asks Elinor about it:

‘(…) This living of Colonel Brandon`s- can it be true?- has he really given it to Edward?- I heard it yesterday by chance, and was coming to you on purpose to enquire farther about it.´It is perfectly true- Colonel Brandon has given the living of Delaford to Edward.’
´Really!- Well, this is very astonishing!- no relationship!- no connection between them!- and now that livings fetch such a price! (…)´[4]

This quotation underlines that Jane was not only aware of the dealing, but also that connections were very important in this context.

Not just in “Sense and Sensibility” there is an influence of the gentry present, but also in “Pride and Prejudice”.

A crossover in both novels is the existence of the inheritance law. In Pride and Prejudice it is evident in the character of Mr. Collins who is the heir to Mr. Bennet’s fortune, who had only daughters, so that the next kinsman got everything:

  ‘(…) It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases.[5]

Mr. Collins represents another influence. He is a clergyman who has the living from Rosings, which is owned by Lady Catherine de Bourgh. So Lady Catherine is Mr. Collins’ patroness.

The fact that novels and its female readers were viewed sceptically by some men was not unknown to Jane and so it is no wonder that this point also can be found in her novel Pride and Prejudice:

  Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it, (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed.[6]

The novel Pride and Prejudice shows the breadth of the gentry. The best examples are Mr. Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bennet has a small property, from which he earns £2000 a year. In contrast Mr. Darcy earns £10000 a year from Pemberley. This difference of fortunes was remarked by Joan Klingel Ray as well and he presented it in his book Jane Austen for Dummies.

Jane knew that new groups of gentlemen were rising up. She highlights Mr. Gardiner, Elisabeth’s uncle, a businessmen in London as someone from the gentry.

The demands of the gentry as to women being cultivated also find a place in Jane Austen`s novels. They are always present, but in “Pride and Prejudice” Elisabeth, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and his sister talk about refinement and, when talking to Mr. Darcy, Miss Bingley accurately defined how a cultivated woman has to be:

  ‘A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.‘[7]

Jane was aware of the demands and claims of the members of the gentry and reflects them in “Pride and Prejudice”. But she also knew that it was hard to fulfil all the points, as Elisabeth`s reply demonstrates:

  ‘I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united.’[8]

Jane Austen wrote about her world and this included her social class, the gentry. The manners and the life forms of the gentry are always present in “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice”.

She took some typical situations of a gentleman’s daughter’s life and put them in the plots of her novels. She probably just wrote about the events she had experienced.

Christian Grawe supports this assumption in his book Darling Jane,when he writes that Jane`s novels are about the life form and form of use in the gentry, thus about her own world and her moral scale of rating.[1]

As an author Jane took a character trait of a person she knew and gave it to a fictional character in her novel. That is exactly what the literary genre provides for novels, to take your fantasies and experiences to create a plot and character that seems to be real.

In both novels the inheritance law is mentioned. Maybe this shows that Jane was displeased by it, because she, as a woman, could not inherit anything. And this was what she wanted to present in the form of Mr. Dashwood and Mr. Collins, who are the inheritors instead of the protagonists Elinor and Elizabeth.

The clergymen Mr. Ferrars and Mr. Collins are very different and an example of the influence of clergymen on Jane’s novels. George Austen, Jane’s father, and her brothers James and Henry were clergymen.[2] Because of this she was probably introduced to many pastors and could picture a few of them, or their character traits, in her novels.

There were many influences of the gentry on Jane Austen’s novels and that the ones I have mentioned won’t be the only ones. Presumably her family and her life have also had a great influence on her novels.

Besides it could be that all of her novels have a happy ending, because she herself did not. Jane Austen died unmarried aged 41. It is established that Tom Lefroy was her first love, but his relations were against an alliance between Jane and Tom.

In my opinion it would be interesting to find out more about Jane`s novels and the many influences on them. Doubtlessly the gentry is a great influence, but not the only one.



Jana Schneider a reader from Germany, recently sent us this essay on the social influence Jane Austen’s family and historical time frame had on her works. Only recently introduced to Austen, through the film “Pride and Prejudice”, she became fascinated with Jane Austen’s England, and desired to know more. Choosing to read the complete novels in English, she then proceeded to use her new found interest as the basis for a recent essay.

“Jane Austen is a great and interesting theme. However I had to contain the topic and limit it to a few aspects. I decided that “her world”, which meant her social class, would be my focus as well as the question whether it had an influence on her literary work. To understand the gentry, her social class, one has to have some background knowledge about that time. Aspects that I had to leave out are her family and her way of life, which is also interesting to me and which possibly also influenced her works. In my working process I found that an analysis of the influence of her social class on all her novels would take too much time and exceed the length of this essay. So I have limited it to two of her novels, her first one and the most well known one. Thereby the question “In how far did Jane Austen’s social background influence her novels Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice?” became the topic of this essay.”


Jane Austen: Gentleman’s Daughter:
[1] cf. “Darling Jane“ p. 76

[2] „Jane Austen for Dummies“, p.39

[3] cf. “Jane Austen for Dummies“, p. 39

[4] “Jane Austen for Dummies“, p.39

[5] cf. “Jane Austen for Dummies“, pp. 40-41

[6] cf. “Darling Jane“, pp. 88-89

[7] cf. “Darling Jane“, p. 90

[8] cf. “Darling Jane“ pp.77-78

[9] cf. “Darling Jane“ p. 77

[10] cf. “Darling Jane“, p. 79

[11] cf. „Darling Jane“,p.78

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice:
[1] “Sense and Sensibility“, pp .124-125

[2] cf. „Darling Jane“, p.71

[3] cf. “Darling Jane”, p.88

[4] “Sense and Sensibility“, p.347

[5] “Pride and Prejudice“, p.84

[6] “Pride and Prejudice“, p. 92

[7] “Pride and Prejudice“, p.58

[8] “Pride and Prejudice“, p, 58

[1] cf. “Darling Jane“, p.90

[2] cf. “Jane Austen zum Vergnügen”, pp.156-157 and “Darling Jane”, p. 21