Can you imagine Christmas festivities without candy? Even if they’re rarely the star of the show, Christmas candies have become an inseparable part of seasonal celebrations. If anything, Christmas is the second most important holiday that calls for a well-stocked candy drawer, the first, of course, being Halloween. You may be serving Bûche de Noël, stollen, or a good old red velvet cake as the main dessert, but I doubt there’s a household out there that can afford to organize a Christmas celebration and does so without a bunch of candy around the house.
In fact, many households who don’t celebrate Christmas with a particular fervor prefer skipping big desserts and just making do with a nice candy dish.
And since candy has become inseparable from Christmas celebrations, it’s no surprise that over time a few clear seasonal favorites were identified and cemented themselves as staples.
So let’s explore what the most popular Christmas candies are across the world.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, candy canes - red and white, or red, green, and white, striped candy traditionally flavored with peppermint - are one of the signature Christmas candies, with most countries firmly associating them with the holidays.
Candy canes are supposedly a German invention. There’s a folk tale about a Choirmaster of the Cologn Cathedral commissioning the local candy maker for colorful sugar sticks to keep the children quiet during Christmas worship services. He was apparently feeling quite embarrassed about his bribery, so he instructed the candy maker to shape the sugar sticks like canes to remind the children about the shepherds who visited baby Jesus.
Still, what popularized them in the eyes of the world were likely Hollywood Christmas movies, where candy canes are often used to decorate lavish Christmas trees.
M&M’s seem to be the “quite favorite” of the season. While few would name M&M’s if asked about traditional Christmas candies, the sales regularly rise during the season, increasing from year to year. In fact, it was chosen as the favorite Christmas candy in five US States (Idaho, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming) in 2021.
Not that we can blame them! Not only are M&M’s delicious, but their colorful assortment tends to look very good and suitably festive for the season.
Mars Inc. cottoned onto the candies’ seasonal popularity early on: they launched the limited Christmas release in the 1980s, which remains a Christmas favorite to this day.
Chocolate Santa Clause
Chocolate figurines are another staple of the season, with various Christmas-associated imagery like raindeers, snowmen, Christmas trees, etc., often turned into candy. None of the shapes are more in-demand during the festive season than the Santa Clause.
Some are elaborately shaped, almost like pieces of art, and some are pretty primitive with shallow features.
Most of them are wrapped in brightly colored foil that’s been painted to imitate the figurine, giving its features color and character (though some producers prefer transparent packaging, especially if the figure has been elaborately decorated).
Marzipan figurines are a classic. From Scandinavia, Germany, and Denmark, where marzipan pigs are considered a good luck gift, to Spain, where it comes in all shapes, to Italy, with its famed realistic marzipan fruits (Fruta di Martorana), it’s been associated with winter holidays for centuries.
Nobody knows how marzipan became the seasonal favorite. The rather prosaic theory is that as it was made with expensive ingredients (almonds, sugar, and honey), most people couldn’t afford to enjoy it on non-special occasions. There is a rather interesting apocryphal story about how the marzipan figurines were invented, though.
If there’s a candy that can compete with marzipan in longevity, it’s nougat. Specifically, Spanish nougat candy that’s called turron. It comes in two styles: soft and chewy Jijona-style and hard and brittle Alicante-style with whole almonds. Another country that considers nougat a seasonal staple is Italy, where it’s called torrone.
The main difference between the Spanish turron and the Italian torrone seems to be the overall ratio of nuts to other ingredients is higher in turron (around 60% for Alicante-style turron and 64% for Jijona-style). Italian torrone is also often flavored with different ingredients like citrus, vanilla, chocolate, etc., while Spanish turron doesn’t contain additional flavorings more often than not.
Snickers bar likely gets onto the list on a technicality. It’s one of the best-selling candy bars in the world as is, and most people probably don’t consider it to be specifically a Christmas candy at all. But most people are also creatures of habit, so when they have to buy Christmas candies, they default to the ones they love, at least partially.
And, rather luckily, Snickers is made by combining other classic Christmas treats like chocolate, nougat, caramel, and nuts, so we don’t see a reason to strike it off the list.
At this point, peppermint bark is more of a regional favorite than a world-famous staple, but it seems to be getting there! As is, though, peppermint bark is most often consumed in the United States and can be found among Christmas season releases from many local producers, starting with giants like Ghirardelli and finished with local artisans who hand-craft their chocolate.
Peppermint bark is traditionally a three-layered thin chocolate bar. It’s made with a combination of two types of chocolate and peppermint-flavored candy. The lower layer is dark chocolate, the middle layer is white chocolate, and the top layer consists of crushed candy. The bar is usually broken into smaller pieces before packaging, akin to nut brittle.
Hershey’s Kisses could arguably also be considered a regional favorite, though their fame supersedes that of peppermint bark. Their distinct conical (or flat-bottomed teardrop) shape and shiny foil wrappings are easily recognized in most places.
The reach and history play a rather significant role here: Hershey is a manufacturing giant with a solid presence in over 60 countries, and Hershey’s Kisses have been on the market since 1907. Various media has been associating Hershey’s Kisses with Christmas in one way or another for years now, and consumers of that media - including non-Americans - have internalized it.
By the way, Hershey’s Kisses also come in peppermint flavor, their classic silver foil wrapping decorated with red swirls. The combination of peppermint and white chocolate is somewhat similar to peppermint bark.
Another technicality, Dominostein (ger. “domino tile”), is also a regional favorite (I bet you’re starting to see somewhat of a theme here), only this time, it’s a favorite of Germany and Austria. Unlike other Christmas treats that were invented in Germany and found their way abroad, firmly entrenching themselves in other countries’ traditions (stollen, gingerbread houses, Rumkugeln, Gluhwein, etc.), Dominostein isn’t that well known.
A shame, honestly, because the candy is a 3-in-1 combination of some of the biggest Christmas treats. It’s a layered candy covered with dark chocolate icing. The filling consists of a base made with lebkuchen (German gingerbread cookie), thick fruit jelly (either sour cherry or apricot), and marzipan (or persipan, a marzipan-like confectionery made with apricot kernels).
It was invented in 1936 by Dresden-based confectioner Herbert Wendler.
Chocolate Bonbons and Truffles
Breaking up the list of regional favorites is likely the most internationally popular Christmas candies. Chocolate bonbons and truffles are a classic choice in almost all countries celebrating Christmas, sometimes over more obviously seasonal-specific options like chocolate Santas or candy canes.
Note: while both are a type of chocolate candy, bonbons and truffles are not, in fact, the same. Bonbons are molded, and the hard chocolate shell covers a softer, often non-chocolate center. Truffles are more buttery, with a tender chocolate center, and typically rolled in another ingredient like cocoa powder or crushed nuts.
Bonbons and truffles have the advantage of coming in multiple shapes, flavors, and packaging, allowing the buyer to customize (so to speak) their candy selection to their tastes, down to the last detail, from what flavors they prefer (fruity, nutty, plain chocolate) to what kind of wrappings (bright foil or more subdued).
Chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil are, apparently, one of the oldest Christmas candies in the world. If the story about them popping up around the 16th century, soon after the chocolate was first introduced to Europe, is true. Unfortunately, the sources differ, so we don’t have any solid information about how old chocolate coins are.
Not that that has stopped them from becoming one of the staple Christmas candies across Europe! In the United Kingdom, they’re typically used as a decoration, a Christmas treasure hunt item, and a stocking stuffer. They’re also common in Central and Easter European countries but treated as more of a regular candy there.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Another local favorite going global, Reese’s peanut butter cups, have been picking up a rather large steam across Europe in the last decade. Already one of the biggest Christmas candies in America, it’s slowly starting to cement itself as a seasonal favorite in other countries as well, driven by the strength of popular culture.
That Reese’s, much like M&M’s, has seasonal releases (their classic flavor, only shaped like Christmas trees, Santas, holiday lights, etc.) only helps the cause.
While technically a Hungarian specialty, Szaloncukor is popular in Central Europe. It’s particularly tightly associated with Christmas celebrations in Slovakia and Romania, where it’s almost entirely imported from Hungary.
Szaloncukor is a type of chocolate candy. Traditionally its center was made with fondant, but nowadays, fondant is often swapped for more common praline-style fillings like hazelnut paste, caramel, chocolate paste, etc. Original, fondant-based Szaloncukor is very sweet, even downright saccharine, but more modern varieties tend to be “tamer,” moderately sweet, like a typical bonbon.
The main distinguishing characteristic of Szaloncukor is the wrapper. Szaloncukor candy is traditionally wrapped in shiny multi-colored foil with long edges. The edges are deliberate: they’re needed to tie on a string since Szaloncukor is often used as decoration for Christmas trees.
Brittle combines caramelized sugar and roasted nuts (most often peanuts, almonds, or pecans), resulting in a hard, breakable candy - hence the name. Similar to peppermint bark (or, rather, the other way around), nut brittle is typically broken into small pieces before packaging.
A versatile confectionery, nut brittle often appears among the typical Christmas treats across the globe. While not exactly a traditional treat in most places (aside from a few exceptions like Georgia with its Gozinaki), it’s often added to Christmas shopping lists simply because people prefer defaulting to the sweets they already like. Americans, for example, are particularly fond of peanut brittle during the season.
Advent Calendar Chocolate
Last but certainly not least, advent calendar chocolate is one of the biggest staples of the seasons. And by that, we mean it accounts for over 70% of advent calendar sales. Considering advent calendars bring in billions of dollars every year, advent calendar chocolate kind of automatically becomes one of the best-selling Christmas candies.
And honestly? Good. Advent calendars are fun for kids and thoughtful gifts for adult loved ones. With choices ranging from plain milk chocolate to gourmet-grade pralines, there’s something for everyone - all wrapped in a festive package. No wonder so many hands stray.
Visit Yummy Bazaar’s Online Candy Store for More Traditional (and Novel) Christmas Candies:
Yummy Bazaar’s online candy store is the home to one of the largest gourmet candy collections! With a wide variety of options from all over the world, carefully curated to fit the tastes of even the pickiest candy lovers, our store is bound to provide at least a few options to brighten up your Christmas festivities. Explore the marzipan or nougat (and turron) selections for more traditional options, stocked with candies that have been a necessary Christmas attribute in Europe for hundreds of years. Or explore the chocolate collection for a wide variety of truffles, bonbons, and bars (maybe spare a thought or two for more unique flavors to add a novel touch to your Christmas celebrations!). And, of course, if you wish to find a memorable gift for a loved one with a sweet tooth, an advent calendar, or a shiny embossed tin, decorated with cheerful seasonal imagery and stocked with gourmet chocolate can never go amiss! Just stock the cart with Christmas candies that catch your eye, and we’ll take it from there, ensuring it’s safely delivered to your doorstep ASAP!