Celebrating Laughter

04/10/2021 – Julie Cameron

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Oranges by Paty Jager

Ever since reading about Laura and Mary receiving oranges in their stockings for Christmas in the book The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I've wondered about the significance of an orange in a stocking.

My grandfather in California raised oranges and we always received a box of citrus and nuts from him in December, so an orange in my stocking wasn't something that would leave me in awe. But the books and movies in that time period that made a big deal out of the event made me go looking for info on the subject.

In the 1880's oranges were plentiful in the U.S. being raised in Florida and California. And with the transcontinental railroad they could be transported efficiently. With oranges being harvested in the wintertime it was the perfect "fresh fruit".

The story I found that best tells why an orange is placed in the toe of a Christmas stocking has to do with Bishop Nicolas of Turkey. There was a poor man who had three daughters he wished to marry off but they were so poor they had no dowries. Because the man was a good man, on Christmas Eve Bishop Nicholas tossed three bags of gold down the chimney. A bag landed in eachone of the girls' stockings hanging from the mantle to dry. Due to the heat the gold coins melted and formed a gold ball.

To this day an orange or tangerine in the toe of a stocking symbolizes the gold ball and wealth.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century for a child to find an orange in their stocking was like finding gold. The fruit was a precious treat and it also symbolized their parents had enough prosperity to purchase the "gold" for their stocking.

I haven't used this in any of my stories but one day it might just end up in one.

I have one historical western romance Christmas story,  Christmas Redemption.


Van Donovan returns to Pleasant Valley, Oregon where twelve years earlier as a boy of fifteen he left in handcuffs after standing guard for a bank robbery. He's learned a trade and excelled at it and is ready to prove to his father and the town he can amount to something.
Upon his return he learns the fate of the daughter of an innocent man who died in the robbery crossfire. To make amends he takes her out of the saloon and gives her a job, not realizing she'd been squatting in the very building he'd purchased for his business.
Can two battered hearts find solace or will the past continue to haunt their lives?

 BUY LINKS:  Kindle         Nook           Smashwords        

Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas filled with family, friends and good times!



Anonymous said...

Paty, we always got an orange and nuts in our stockings when I was young. I've continued the tradition, but never knew where it came from. thank you so much.

Margery Scott said...

Hi Paty, great story about oranges and Christmas stockings. When I was a little girl in Scotland, I always got an apple and an orange in my stocking. I often thought it was a good way for "Santa" to fill it up cheaply, but I wonder if the orange was really a treat since they couldn't grow in Scotland. Now you're making me want to find out the significance of the apple.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Ella, Isn't curiosity a great thing! LOL I love finding out why traditions happen.Thanks for stopping in!

Hi Margery, That is interesting about the orange in Scotland since they weren't grown there. And the apple... that would be interesting to know. Thank you for dropping by!

Rose Anderson said...

Paty, I LOVE this. It just so happens the Victorian couple in my novel in progress are celebrating their first holiday together. What a nice little touch to use. Thank you.

Paty Jager said...

Rose, I'm glad this is something you can use in your book. It's always a boon to be able to use information you glean from someone else's research. It gives you more time to delve in to other things you want to learn about.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Growing up I always received an orange in the toe of my stocking. I guess I never questioned it. Just thought it was amazingly yummy to have Christmas morning.

Judith Ashley said...

Thank you, Paty, for clarifying a long-standing family tradition! We always got an orange or tangerine in the toe of our stocking along with nuts and a bag of chocolate gold coins. There was always a candy cane sticking out of the top and sometimes a 'book' of LifeSavers. What else was special about the stockings? We could open them when we got up - everything else had to wait until after a formal cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs, muffins/toast/biscuits, and a German bread with candied fruit in it (Stallen is how we pronounced it but I don't think that's how it's spelled). Oh yes, and my Dad always had another cup of coffee while we kids wiggled and waited or pitched in and helped clear the table - lol. Lots of great memories!

Paty Jager said...

Maggie, I'm sure many parents put an orange in the stocking only knowing it as a tradition but not really how it started. WE all do things because it's tradition without knowing why.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

How fun to learn about the tradition of the orange. Sometimes just knowing why makes a tradition more fun. I also loved the fruit that came with sugar plums. When we made them, it was a wild and sticky time. :)

Paty Jager said...

Hi Judith, It was the same way at our house. You could dig into the stocking before anything else and use that to entertain you until everyone was ready to open the packages. I like your Dad! My husband does the same thing to the grandkids...lingers over chores and getting out of his coat and boots just to torment them.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Paisley, So what are sugar plums? I have always assumed they were plums coated in sugar... I'm guessing that's not right. Ahh another thing to go research.

Lyn Horner said...

Paty, thanks for sharing your research with us. Very interesting!

I'm in the mood for a good Christmas romance. Just popped over to Amazon and grabbed yours. Can't wait to read it!

Paty Jager said...

You're welcome, Lyn! And Thank you for grabbing my Christmas story. I hope you enjoy it.

M. S. Spencer said...

Fascinating blog Paty (as usual!). We always had an orange or tangerine in the toe of our stockings AND a bag of those chocolate coins. I still do it for my grown kids. Like Judith, we opened stockings, then had big breakfast, then opened the French doors (we lived in a Victorian with 15-ft ceilings) to the TREE. Glorious memories. Meredith

Paty Jager said...

Hi Meredith! Your house as a child sounds like a romance novel setting! Have a wonderful Christmas!

Melia Alexander said...

I had no idea! Your post brought back a childhood memory for me. Growing up on an island, there was no fireplace, which meant no mantle, and no stockings. I worried about this when I was growing up -- the no fireplace part - how was Santa supposed to get in if we didn't have a fireplace? LOL.

Great post!

Paty Jager said...

Hi Melia! That would be hard to figure out how Santa would bring gifts if you didn't have a fireplace to hang your stockings. We had a wood stove with brinks around it so the stockings were hung from the bricks. And we just assumed he he was like I Dream of Jeannie and blinked his way in!
Merry Christmas!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Paty,
Sorry, a bit late coming in here.
that was great post, I really enjoyed it.



Paty Jager said...

Thanks Margaret!