For those of us who are involved in Christmas-time festive, the link between oranges and Christmas will perplex unless we have heard the story connecting them. In fact for “Christmas historians”, oranges originated with St. Nicholas, stockings and gold.
The legend is traced to (and the most popular explanation) St. Nicholas, an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra during the time of the Roman Empire who was a wealthy man and spent his life helping others. According to the legend, he had learnt of a poor shopkeeper who couldn’t afford wedding dowries for his three daughters. As the father was reluctant to accept any gifts, in order to help the family, St. Nicholas went to the town at night and tossed three sacks of gold through the window (or down the chimney as some narrate). The gold had landed in the girls’ stockings, which were drying by the fire. In the morning by the time the family had woken up, the gold had condensed into balls in the toes of the stockings.
Following St. Nicholas’ example, oranges were given and shared at Christmas time, as representations of gold and a way to celebrate generosity and caring for those in need.
Others reasons for handing oranges at Christmas can be traced to the fact there were once considered as luxurious items and scarce commodities; hence considered as rare treats when received. During the Great Depression and the wars, oranges were rarity in the markets and homes.
Another theory behind the tradition is that orange segments signify the ability to share what one has with others, symbolizing “the season of giving” of December. Reminding us of the taste of summer, oranges are indeed a “must” gift in the stockings.
“I pretended like all the oranges rolling everywhere were her happy memories and they were looking for a new person to stick to so they didn’t get wasted.” Stephen Kelman