Christmas Foods And Traditions: Oranges

The Christmas Orange
The Christmas Orange

Why Do We Put Oranges in Stockings at Christmas?

1. St. Nicholas and his sacks of gold.

One explanation for this tradition stretches back hundreds of years to St. Nicholas, who was born in what is now present-day Turkey. He inherited a large sum of money, but devoted his life to helping others, and eventually became a bishop.

According to the story, St. Nicholas learned of a poor man who wasn’t able to find suitors for his three daughters because he didn’t have money for a dowry. St. Nicholas traveled to the house, and tossed three sacks of gold down the chimney for each of the dowries. The gold happened to land in each of the girls’ stockings which were hanging by the fire to dry. The oranges we receive today are a symbol of the gold that was left in the stockings.

2. Oranges were once a scarce treat.

Some also offer the idea that fresh oranges were hard to come by, especially in the north, so finding one of these fruits in your stocking was a huge treat, and a way of celebrating the holiday.  By the 1880s, oranges were in plentiful enough supply in the United States, coming from the new states of Florida and California, that they could be shipped across the country via the new transcontinental railway system. So clearly, Santa Claus, working with the local seasonal availability of fresh oranges around winter time and the newly available transportation system, took advantage of those and tucked oranges into the socks and stockings of many American boys and girls on Christmas Eve around the country.

3. A treat during the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, money was tight, and many families simply didn’t have the means to buy gifts. Instead, it was such a treat, even a luxury, to find things like a sweet orange or some walnuts in your stocking on Christmas.

4. It’s the season of giving.

Another theory behind the tradition is that December is the season of giving, and the orange segments represent the ability to share what you have with others.

5. Is there anything better than the fragrance of orange and clove at Christmas? Not Likely!

6. Fragrant citrus fruits were exchanged during holidays for good luck.

Did you ever receive an orange in your stocking on Christmas morning?

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