It was almost 25 years ago that my hubby and I sat in a little hotel restaurant in Morocco debating the pros and cons of the Quebec referendum with the waiter in our limited French. We had finished the most delightful meal infused with the fragrances of Moroccan spices as “dessert” was brought to our table. No, not cake or pie, not even date pudding, which I could have expected in Northern Africa, but about four large orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon. Unusual choice, I thought, but yummy nonetheless. As we spent the next few days swimming in the ocean (to which the locals mocked… it was winter in February after all!) I did notice the beach fronts were lined with cartons of clementines and citrus… an “in season” fruit for this part of the world.
I’ve been thinking about oranges lately… not because I need the vitamin C, nor because I particularly like the flavour of oranges, but because I have been sucked in to the Pinterest and Instagram displays of the DIY/low waste/oh-so-country-pretty garlands of dried citrus and evergreen that seem to be popping up on my feeds these days. I wanna try them, but haven’t yet gathered enough energy for the hours of slicing, oven drying and bead stringing needed… not to mention I think I need more oranges. And some foraging in the woods for greenery. And time away from the kids, or maybe they would help, or maybe glue sticks are needed, or… hmmn. Maybe I won’t be trying it. The dog will probably eat them anyway. But I like them. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
So, I did a little digging about the significance of citrus at Christmastime. Here’s some of the things I found ( via https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-we-should-bring-back-tradition-christmas-orange-180971101/). Way back in the 19th century the idea of placing an orange in the bottom of your Christmas stocking may have been an ode to the legend of the three balls (or bags or bars or coins) of gold that the Bishop of Myra, the real Saint Nicholas, gave to three poor maidens to use as dowries. Apparently they were saved from impoverishment and a life of misery by the gifting of 3 round bags of gold … later replaced by golden fruit. At the time, oranges were considered an exotic luxury — but not quite equal to gold, I suppose.
As the Victorian era came along and Christmas traditions moved forward, marketing began to take over and oranges became the hot ticket item, especially when the great depression hit and citrus once again became the “expensive” treat. Nowadays, I just grab one out of the fridge to shove in the bottom of my kid’s stockings, and they know where they came from. But maybe that dowry thing has merit… I have two daughters…
It fascinates me that we give “meaning” to everyday objects. Winter solstice celebrations involve fruit. The Jewish fall celebrations of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, requires an unblemished “etrog” fruit, and Hindus cherish “Buddha’s hand” a long citrus fruit with finger-like tendrils. Plus, of course, the dear old pear tree in which the partridge sits. But pears are not citrus, are they? Oh, nevermind then.
I suppose those everyday objects are a tangible way for us to connect. By giving them meaning and significance, it helps us to acknowledge God’s creativity in the world around us. For example, He displays His majesty in the sunset. And just think of how many flavours we have: sweet, spicey, rich and bitter. Oh, can you imagine what food will be like in Heaven?! No wonder we often celebrate and remember special occasions with feasts! This year, our gatherings may be a little different. Perhaps great aunt Mary may not come to dinner with her famous sweet potato side with toasted marshmallows, and maybe there will be no cookie exchanges or pie socials. Yet, I am still expecting an orange in the bottom of my stocking… and I will be glad for it, as it will remind me: I am blessed.