This Is Why We Put Oranges in Stockings on Christmas

The secret behind your holiday citrus

This Is Why We Put Oranges in Stockings on Christmas

It's Christmas time, and that means colder weather, warm hot chocolate, gathering with family and friends, and, of course, presents. Besides the gifts left under the Christmas tree, there are also traditionally little trinkets to be found in the stockings hung above the fireplace. And sometimes, an orange will be among those small, stocking-sized treats. But why is this citrus fruit part of Christmas morning traditions?

The answer actually lies within several competing theories. One of these theories attributes the tradition all the way back to St. Nicholas, AKA Santa Claus. As the story goes, St. Nicholas heard of a poor man who couldn't find suitors for his three daughters because he didn't have money for a dowry. So, St. Nicholas went to the man's house and tossed three sacks of gold down the chimney. The gold then landed in each of the daughter's Christmas stockings and some believe the oranges received in today's stockings are symbols of that gold.

Another theory as to why we see oranges in Christmas stockings dates back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. With money being incredibly tight during this period, many families didn't have the funds for gifts. Instead, oranges and even walnuts were left in stockings on Christmas morning as a little gift for the special day. Writer and farmer Tobias Roberts described how his grandmother would recall how exciting the fruit seemed to her in the Midwestern winter.

"As a child, every Christmas she would find an orange in the toe of her stocking; a mysterious fruit brought all the way from some exotic warm place called Florida," he wrote. "It was special and unique, because of its rarity and because of the natural limitations that made oranges a scarce commodity in Michigan."

A third theory is also about the historical scarcity of oranges. The fresh fruit was once hard to come by, especially in the north. Because of this, finding one in your Christmas stocking was considered to be a special treat for the holiday.

Finally, the fourth theory connects the oranges to the season of giving. The orange is supposed to be a reminder to give during the holidays. It represents that we have the ability to be more generous during the month of December, and to share what we have with everyone around us.

Whether it's an orange at the bottom of your stocking, volunteering with your family at a soup kitchen to help those in need, or hosting a "Friendsmas" with your closest friends, traditions are what make this time of year so special. They can be passed down from generation to generation for years and years to come, giving us comfort and the opportunity to bond with those closest to us during one of the most magical times of the year.

For more super interesting knowledge about your favorite holiday, check out these 27 Amazing Facts About Christmas Trees. 

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