Who Decided Peppermint is the Flavor of Christmas?

The above question is not rhetorical. I would really, really like to know.

So if any of you fine readers out there have a conspiracy theory or an actual fact for me, I’d love to hear it. In lieu of knowing the answer, I’ll pose the question a different way, phrasing it around my own personal unsubstantiated hypothesis:

When the heads of food companies get together to strategize on just how to brainwash the masses with the next food trend, how did they decide that peppermint should be the ubiquitous flavor of the holiday season?

Peppermint is on my “Not a Huge Fan of” taste list. There are exactly four things I can withstand with peppermint/wintergreen/menthol crème de menthe:

  • Breath mints and gum
  • Thin Mints (also known as Grasshoppers, made by those wonderful Keebler Elves; they also make Samoas that aren’t Samoas, in case any of you are still keeping up with my Girl Scout Cookies in Disguise)
  • Andes Mints (pretty much the only chocolate/mint candy I find that balances the chocolate and mint JUST right)
  • Toothpaste

I don’t “do” Mojitos, peppermint candy canes are only for decoration in my mind (though the cherry ones are amaaaaaaziiiiiiing!), I will not deign to eat the round peppermint candy after-dinner-mints, and I’m unsure why peppermint flavored lip gloss is so popular, but it is. (I think it has to do with the lip plumping. Or maybe that it’s the most effective way to make something taste like candy without it being too childish, as is the case with watermelon flavored things.)

Is mint a wintertime thing? Does the cooling sensation remind us of snow? I guess that’s where York Peppermint Patties got their whole shtick.

And also, is it just me or does anyone else have difficulty drinking water after eating anything minty? I never know how long I’m going to have to wait before I can consume liquids again.

Some people jump for joy at the release of Everything Mint come November but I’m finding it more challenging to get to the regular, non-minty holiday candy. Just today, I went to go get a favorite holiday staple of mine: the red, green, and silver Hershey’s Kisses.

Sorry, a little nostalgia break.

In my search for the plain old, delicious, nothing-extra-just-chocolate-Kisses, I came upon a WALL of peppermint candy. At the bottom of this post are just TEN examples of the bags of candy proudly put on display. It’s like the peppermint candy went through some kind of population explosion. It’s seriously crazy. My jaw was slightly slack while I snapped the photos with my phone. (I may have looked a little daft at Walgreen’s.)

Even my friend who was with me was surprised at all the inventive ways that candy companies are making peppermint more enticing. Is there just some huge stash of mint laying around somewhere that needs to be used up? Do the mint farmers have something with which to blackmail the food companies?

Maybe I’m in alone in this and it’s just a popular flavor that everyone else digs but me. I can name a handful of flavors I love to enjoy during the holidays, but peppermint ain’t one.

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  1. Well, the association of peppermint flavored fill-in-the-blanks comes from candy canes, of course, and those come from peppermint sticks. The rumor I heard was that a German choirmaster in the 17th century asked a candy maker to bend the peppermint sticks he was giving to the boys in the choir (as a Christmas treat) so that they looked like a shepherd’s crook (cue Linus van Pelt). This is in keeping with the many Christmas traditions that spread from Germany throughout Europe and then the US (like the Christmas tree), and also with the Christmas plays (not a bunch of little kids but actual live-action associated with the ritual of the liturgy, like the Passion plays for Holy Week, but in this case, they are usually part of an ongoing manger/creche scene). How it came to be attached to cocoa beverages/other candies/ice cream/etc., I have no idea. That’s fairly recent (like, mostly in the last 10-15 years).

    • Kevin Schneider says:

      I actually really like peppermint ice cream if done right (read – NO crushed up bits). It’s great on apple pie. Also, the mint M&Ms look good, but I think they would be too easy to sort, and therefore not enough of a challenge to eat.

      • When I was a kid, I enjoyed the little peppermint ice cream treats that the milk man would bring but like raisins, I outgrew my taste for those.

      • I’m with you on the mint M and M’s Kevin. But I also like them because I can’t eat too many of them (i.e., 1/2 bag) before I get sick and pass out. I never thought of peppermint ice cream on apple pie.

    • Julia, I love that you can give me the history! And I laughed that you “heard the rumor” about the 17th century German choirmaster. Maybe peppermint was always a natural go-to flavor for candy since chocolate wasn’t prevalent until much later. As for peppermint mochas and the like, I can’t stomach them because it tastes like toothpaste ruining my delicious chocolate/coffee flavors. Candy canes have always been popular at Christmas, and I get it, but the rest of it I’m scratching my head over, as evidenced by this blog tangent.

      • I was tired when I wrote that “heard the rumor” thing–I just wanted to be sure that you knew I it was conjecture! :-). I am all about the peppermint…ALONE. Or, in peppermint bark (for about ten bites). I also like the peppermint ice cream, but only if it’s really good quality (like Oberweiss). I do NOT go for the peppermint mochas. I can do eggnog lattes (even though eggnog doesn’t seem to go with coffee, it does). I enjoyed this blog entry because you actually ask a probing and important question that really does get at the heart of contemporary marketing. One minute, my mom and dad are getting peppermint candy for Christmas (and maybe one present, if that, during the depression), the next minute people are buying out stores for their kids every year and hanging candy canes on Christmas trees or whatever (i.e., the 1960’s-80’s), and then, all of a sudden ten minutes later, we have peppermint-chocolate everything to “signal” Christmas. We’re totally saturated. In Germany, they have lots of Christmas things–like their Christmas chocolate, which generally has cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and sometimes nuts and raisins, so it tastes a little like fruitcake, makes more sense, not just because the flavors are traditional, but because it’s among several types of confections available only at Christmas. As usual, the American model of Christmas marketing is lazy, dumb, and rife with overkill–what’s next? Peppermint Liver and Onions? And it takes a clever person like you to point that out!

  2. No… I’m definitely with you on this one. I actually asked this question the other day. I like mint mochas… but other than that, no way. No mint for me. I’ve never been a fan.

  3. I don’t like candy canes. Or peppermint candies. Or (*shudders*) peppermint flavoured coffee drinks. Maybe it’s festive for medicinal reasons? Like how a cup of mint tea will settle your stomach after a huge holiday meal. Maybe it’s a Pavlovian thing so ingrained in our psyche that it’s become archetypal. Christmas = Huge Holiday Meal and Candy. Huge Holiday Meal = Stomach Upset. Relief From Stomach Upset = Mint. Christmas = Mint Candy. Or something 😉

    • Desi, I just cracked up thinking about Christmas and antacids (like Maalox, which is a chalky mint flavored liquid). Ewwww!

      I’m even more anti-peppermint now!

  4. Laughing over “is there a huge stash of mint laying around somewhere,” although maybe there’s something to that. My husband grew mint in a container one year and it inexplicably spread to the soil on the opposite side of the house and comes back every damn year now. So it grows like a weed (many of the plants we planted on purpose die, so it’s not that we have green thumbs or anything).

    I’m totally with you on distaste for mint. Only I would have to take Thin Mints off your list of palatable mint things.

    I also love that Hershey Kisses commercial, I’m a sucker for anthropomorphizing.

    • Thanks for coming by, Logy! Big fan of your blog.

      Now that I know how quickly mint takes over if it has access to soil, water, and sunlight, it makes a bit more sense that there’d be a huge stash laying around somewhere. You are the first and only person I’ve “met” who doesn’t like Thin Mints! It’s kind of like when I meet someone who doesn’t like French fries. (I think one or two exists…) I definitely don’t have a green thumb but I’m going to put Mint on my list of things to never try growing.


  1. […] (so excited about her photography career move). She writes charming posts. This one, about the icky-ness of mint, made me realize we are long-lost twins. I totally could have written that post myself and kind of […]

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