Put the peanut butter balls and the sugar cookies down, because December 19 is all about the hard stuff as we celebrate National Hard Candy Day. While we’re a little sticky about the origins of this holiday, it can be safely said that hard candy has long been a preferred sweet snack by many societies. In the Medieval period, sugar (the only true ingredient in candy) was prohibitively expensive. Thus, the Jolly Ranchers and Blow Pops of the dark ages were reserved for the royal and the wealthy. Quite a difference from the penny candy you can pick up for cents on the dollar today. Over the years, confectioners have refined the process to an exact science, and we now know exactly how hot we need the sugar to create sweet, sticky, crunching, and cracking hard candy, so get your Tootsie Pops (and your tooth brushes) ready.
National Hard Candy Day Activities
1. Make your own lollipops
Making your own hard candy isn’t typically the first thing we think of when coming up with homemade goods, but lollipops could easily make their way onto that list. As long as you can find a mold (they’re available in baking shops or online) you can buy the ingredients for lollipops in any grocery store. Then, it’s just a matter of mixing, melting and pouring. Choose which colors and flavors suit you best, and you could even suspend something in the middle. Gum, edible flower petals, or insects for the adventurous are all great ideas.
2. Decorate your home with hard candy
It’s the holiday season, and thanks to hard candy’s brilliant colors, there’s more to these sweets than just eating. Find a clear vase with a funky shape, an old bottle with a wide mouth, or any other container, and fill it with whatever candy looks best. If the wrappers are all the same color, this can still give off a gift-theme vibe.
3. Branch out
If you’re a dyed in the wool Werther’s fan, maybe it’s time to venture out of Candy Cane Court and into Lemon Drop Lane. There’s a whole world of hard candies out there, from fruit flavored to chocolate cream and even more obscure flavors, like wild flowers and cinnamon. You never know what your next favorite might be.
Why We Love National Hard Candy Day
A. Hard candy is medicinal
Of course not every hard candy can claim to be good for the body, but there are reasons why hard candy takes the form it does today. Originally, hard candies made with lemon or peppermint were likely given to patients with stomach problems. The slow release of these ingredients, which are known stomachache remedies, was and is still a great way to ingest them. So just tell your dentist all those Christmastime candy canes were for helping your indegestion. She’ll understand.
B. Hard candy makes you smart
What was once an old legend now has some basis in science. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found that sucking on a peppermint while taking a test can increase concentration ability. Other studies have demonstrated that a quick burst of sugar can help people persevere longer on difficult tasks, and can delay gratification. Consider this next time you’ve got a long day of work ahead of you.
C. Hard candy lasts and lasts
Unlike that plate of Christmas cookies you wolfed down the other night, hard candy is designed to last. A single, cheap lollipop will give you those cherry or grape flavors for far longer than other treats. In fact, we’re still waiting to know how many licks it actually takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. And while Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper isn’t yet a reality, confectioners have come a long way to give us a gift that keeps on giving.