Every year from when I was little until even now, I’ve always gotten a stocking for Christmas from my parents. It had candy, of course, and some little toy (or usually a gift card now), and an orange. When I was younger the orange would always roll away (or be nudged with a petulant toe) only to be found under the couch or in a corner after all the wrapping paper was picked up.
This year, I decided to finally ask my mom why we put oranges in Christmas stockings and her answer was so sweet.“Tradition,” she said.
Not a great answer, as far as answers go, but sweet.
Then she explained, when she was growing up her family didn’t have much money. Things like toys, candies, and especially fresh fruit were rare. Her parents were children of the great depression, and fresh fruit would have been even more rare for them.
So receiving an orange in the stocking was actually an enormous gift. It was a way of making sure every child had at least one sweet present to open on Christmas morning, no matter what.
How amazing is my mom?
I looked up the real answer when I got home, and it’s kind of cool, too.
Apparently back before St. Nicholas was a Saint, he was a bishop. Story goes he rode through a town where a shopkeeper had three beautiful daughters and couldn’t afford a dowry. Which meant the girls would be destitute once the father passed away.
Bishop Nicholas, realizing the father was a proud man, tossed three sacks of gold through an open window (or down a chimney, depending on where you read it) while the family was sleeping and one of the bags landed in the toe of a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry.
When the family awakened in the morning, they found the gold, including the one in the sock which had turned into a ball overnight.So giving the orange is a way to celebrate generosity and caring for others without thinking about a gift in return. It’s meant to symbolize that gold ball and as a reminder to care for those in need.
Both beautiful stories, but my mom’s is definitely the one that meant the most to me.
Do you give out oranges in stockings? Did you ever know why, or is it a family tradition in your home, too?
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