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The Christmas Orange: A Christmas Tradition

I love Christmas and enjoy sharing my family traditions with others.

Alex is enjoying his Christmas orange!

Alex is enjoying his Christmas orange!

Christmas Orange Tradition

Every year in our stockings, Santa would place an orange at the toe. Of course, there were other trinkets and goodies that filled the stocking as well, but those changed each year. The one we could always count on was the Christmas orange.

Even as my sister and I grew, my mom still placed that orange in the toe, and I never really had thought about why she did this or had even asked her. However, when I married, even before my own children, I continued the tradition. It is funny because my husband did not share this tradition, but there have been years when somehow two oranges ended up in our Christmas stockings.

In some stories, I have read that the reason that the orange was such a valuable gift during the Christmas season was that they were much more difficult to find, especially in the northern states. Because they were hard to find, they were expensive and deemed a luxury. Certainly not something that working families would spend hard-earned money on to have on the table every day.

A book about the tradition

A book about the tradition

Oranges for everyone!

Oranges for everyone!

The History

There are many stories about the Christmas orange. When I finally did ask my Mom how this tradition came about, she told me that she read about it in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and fell in love with the idea. Something about the fresh, citrus scent that fills a room when it is peeled just made her want to add that to her Christmas tradition. In addition, if you think about a Christmas stocking and the size of an orange, it really fills up that stocking. There are fewer "extras" that are needed. And so the Christmas orange was born in our home.

Once I became a teacher, I purposefully collected books. I collected series books and books by the same author, all in the name of relating a story to what we were learning in class. So to my surprise, I found the story An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco as I began collecting her stories. Little did I know that this was a version of the Christmas orange.

Books About the Christmas Orange

There are a lot of stories out there that reference the Christmas orange; however, the theme in all are relatively the same. This is the season of giving, and the slices of the orange represent the ability to share what you have with others. During the holiday season in December, no matter your religious beliefs, it is a great reminder to remember others and keep the idea of sharing and giving within your heart. An Orange for Frankie is a great story that I love to share with my children each Christmas.


Traditions are a wonderful part of not only the holiday season but families in general. Thank you for sharing my family's Christmas tradition with me. From my house to yours, I wish you and your family a happy holiday season, no matter what your religious beliefs may be.

Grace and Alex, Christmas 2010, Merry Christmas!

Grace and Alex, Christmas 2010, Merry Christmas!


Marcus Petz on January 02, 2016:

people do not half write some rubbish. Given that the tradition predates the 20th century it cannot be a depression era tradition. Given that it is common throughout Europe it is not likely it originated in the USA. In fact some say the orange represents santa's gift of money in Turkey.

How can others write or believe such drivel as it originated in the mid west or that their mother invented it I do not know.

Roger Loomis on December 17, 2014:

IF I remember, the tradition is hundreds of years old. There is something about a Gold Ball that helped some poor person or family in need at the time they needed it. I think the Globe/Ornaments on the tree are an out cropping of it. I think one of the Saint Traditions is part of it. Always related to good deed, mercy, and grace around the Birth of Christ celebration in contrast to the Pagan celebrations, as the Green and EVERGReen Tree. The USA was where a LOT of the World Traditions got Melted together. With so many people coming from all over Yet Wanting to be One People.... unlike all the Fighting and trying to Destroy What This country Became before the HYPE People. Merry Christ Season Celebrations to all of you.

Hilda on December 13, 2013:

I grew up in the U.K and I always found an orange in the toe of my stocking except during the second World War when fruit was in short supply.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 28, 2011:

How ironic HBN! I can't wait to read about him. I admit that I've never really heard of him before. Thanks for your comments!

Oh RT, what a SAD ending! Even in our worst times, we do have a lot to be thankful for and we sometimes need those reminders. Thanks for the visit.

RTalloni on November 27, 2011:

Neat hub on traditions! Growing up in Florida meant that oranges were plentiful so I didn't quite know how to vote. They weren't a tradition for stockings, but we had fresh oranges, and loved them!

I remember reading a book a long time ago about a Russian (I think) family, impoverished by their circumstances. One son always dreamed of what an orange would be like--smell like, taste like, feel like. He had never even seen one, only heard of them. Then, one Christmas each child was given their own orange! All but this one son ate theirs right away, but he cherished his. He kept it with him, even slept with it, dreaming of the day he would eat it. Sadly it went bad before he ate it. I know this isn't a very happy ending to this part of their story, but now I always think of how much we have to be thankful for in our country compared to many other parts of the world when I eat an orange.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 27, 2011:

I never heard of a Christmas orange until yesterday afternoon when I was attending a cooking demonstration and lecture given by retired White House Chef Roland Mesnier. He grew up in a small village in France in a very large family. His parents were poor, there was no running water or electricity and his gift each Christmas was an orange- which he said was a real treat. I just included that story in a hub I wrote about him and was delighted to see the origins of this custom in your hub.

Great hub, especially that beautiful Christmas photo of Alex and Grace at the end. Voted up across the board except for funny.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 14, 2011:

Thanks for reading and commenting Susan. It is interesting to find out why we do the things that we take for granted. So glad you stopped by and thanks for the compliments on the pics!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2011:

We too always got an orange or a mandarin in our stockings as well. I never really questioned why though. Wonderful tradition though that I've even kept up with myself.

Love the pictures and I really like your new profile picture.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 13, 2011:

I'm so thrilled that this hub has given so many people a chance to relive such great memories. Thanks for your addition to this hub love2cook1954.

love2cook1954 on November 13, 2011:

I still set out oranges, tangerines, apples, nuts, and candy on Christmas day...It is like second nature to me.

Thanks Cardelean for the memories(smiling)

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 12, 2011:

Even though we still get them regularly in our house, it's still a treat on Christmas for us! Thanks for sharing your experience Leslie.

Leslie Jo Barra on November 11, 2011:

We always got an orange when we spent Christmas at my Nana's house. She told me it came from the Great Depression when fruit was scarce and expensive, hence a treat. Great hub!

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 10, 2011:

It is a great one to keep christinepurr! Thanks for your comment.

christinepurr on November 10, 2011:

This was a very sweet hub! It made me think of my childhood, we always had oranges in our stockings too! I think I'll continue the tradition as well. :)

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 09, 2011:

Wow kittythedreamer I had no idea! Thanks for sharing that very cool bit of information. You've really added to this hub, I appreciate it.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on November 08, 2011:

Actually my grandparents on my father's side always put oranges in our christmas stockings. I've actually read that the orange when used on Christmas dates back to ancient times. Any citrus fruits used at Christmas represented an idea or plea for the sun to return to the land (Yule or the Winter Solstice on December 21st was the shortest day of the year and many people believed that they had to pray and ask for the sun's return). Citrus fruits represented the sun and the people's gratitude for the sun's warmth and life to the land. Thanks and awesome hub!

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 08, 2011:

I can only imagine the cost of them in the Arctic, Red Elf. It certainly is not a native plant! Thanks for reading and commenting.

I'm glad it brought a smile to your face Movie Master. I still look forward to finding one in mine each year! And thanks for the votes and the kid compliment!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on November 08, 2011:

Oh the Christmas orange, it's a special memory and it made me smile, there was always one in my stocking.

A lovely hub and the photo of Grace and Alex is beautiful!

Voting up, thank you.

RedElf from Canada on November 07, 2011:

Lovely tradition - we always found an orange in the toe of our Christmas stockings, and we have passed that on to our children. They were a very expensive treat when we lived in the Arctic.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 07, 2011:

Wow vocalcoach, I feel so honored! I completely understand "as time allows." Life is pretty busy for me too. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I'm glad I was able to bring back some good memories for you.

Ahh, cinnamon! That makes perfect sense. Thanks for stopping back by and adding that WillStarr.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on November 07, 2011:

My older sister just told me that Mom also used cinnamon. I just remember how great it smelled!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on November 07, 2011:

The Christmas Orange has been a tradition in my family and one that we all love. I'm so glad that you wrote a hub on this, as it helped to bring back some cheerful memories of years past.

I have heard such good things about you and your hubs. I will be reading them all, as time allows. Meanwhile, I wish you and yours and very fun up-coming holday season.

Thank you so much!


cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 07, 2011:

Will Starr that sounds amazing! I just might have to put a bowl of oranges out like that this year. Thanks for the comments.

Thanks Simone, glad you enjoyed it!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on November 07, 2011:

The Christmas Orange! What a fabulous tradition! I'd heard of it before, and also within the context of it being a luxury back in the day. How cool that you've kept it alive!

Thanks for sharing it with us :D

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on November 07, 2011:

It was also a tradition at our house, plus mom always had a bowl of oranges that she had pierced and studded with cloves. The mingled scent of citrus and cloves warmed up the entire room!

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 06, 2011:

Isn't it amazing to think that something that we see every day and really take for granted was once something that was so unusual and treasured in the past! Thanks for sharing your story and for stopping by.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on November 06, 2011:

One of my grandmothers also valued the orange as a Christmas gift. She had her very first orange when she was age 14. She never forgot it. I put an orange in each stocking also.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 06, 2011:

I think that sometimes traditions are born out of necessities Dirt Farmer. Thanks so much for your comment.

Thanks for the link Mom!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on November 06, 2011:

Cara-I linked one of my last ones (traditions) to this hub.

Jill Spencer from United States on November 06, 2011:

One of my grandmothers grew up very poor. As a child, an orange would be her only Christmas gift. I'd no idea it was a tradition to get one.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 06, 2011:

Appreciation for what one has seems to be lost in today's society Love2Cook1954. I am trying to get back to the simplicity to some degree with my own family. Thanks for your comment.

I'm so glad that this brought back good memories for you Mary615. We also didn't have "much" growing up and were much more appreciative of things that many of the young people in society today. Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks Mom. There are quite a few stories out there. I love reading this one to the kids at Christmas and I'm glad you liked the pic!

It's fun to see that so many others shared a similar tradition Flora.

FloraBreenRobison on November 06, 2011:

We always got a manderin orange in our stockings growing up.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on November 05, 2011:

What a great hub Cara--didn't realize there were actually as many books on that subject as you included here. The photo of the two together is a knockout! Thanks for writing about this subject-like your poll. :)

Mary Hyatt from Florida on November 05, 2011:

You brought back fond memories with this one. I got an orange in my stocking each Christmas. I also got a handful of nuts. There was no money at my house for presents, but I always remember the orange. I don't think I would have remembered any toys that I got.

Love2Cook1954 on November 05, 2011:

Yes I to remember those days. In my family we all got a brown bag filled with nuts, fruits, and candy. It was really exciting to get those treats because, we just did not eat candy every day.We got one toy and clothing and we truly apreciated it.

cardelean (author) from Michigan on November 05, 2011:

Thanks Leah, I really think it's a Midwest thing but I don't have any "proof" of that. I hope Santa brings your family oranges this year! And thanks for the kid comment. :)

Aunt Danette, Mom was wondering if you guys did that as a kid. She couldn't remember. I agree that traditions are very important. Thanks for the comment.

Pamela, isn't if funny how so many people received oranges but I bet not too many really thought about it. Thanks for the votes and the compliment!

I hope to be able to read some of the Christmas hubs islandnurse. My full time job keeps me busy so I don't get to read hubs as often as I wish to. Thanks for reading and commenting.

islandnurse from Vancouver Island, Canada on November 05, 2011:

I am loving all the Christmas hubs! We put oranges in our stockings too. Well done.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 05, 2011:

We did get an orange quite often when I was growing up. This traditions is what makes Christmas so special. Your children are adorable. Rated awesome and beautiful.

Danette Watt from Illinois on November 05, 2011:

I didn't know you guys had that tradition but it sounds like a nice one. Family traditions are so important for continuity and to give that feeling of security - "all is right with the world, no matter how crazy life might be outside our walls" kind of feeling.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on November 05, 2011:

My grandfather always got a Christmas orange - he grew up on a farm in Missouri with 10 siblings, and I'm pretty sure the orange (along with some homemade candy) made up the bulk of their Christmas! What a great hub, and I think I might try to incorporate this tradition. What fun! As a side note, that picture of your little ones is REALLY adorable. There is nothing better than little faces on Christmas!