Stuffing a ripe Florida navel orange into the toe of a Christmas stocking is a family tradition, but where and why did the custom begin? Most chroniclers of Christmas legends trace the Christmas orange back to the 4th century and the story of the first Christmas stocking.
According to legend, Saint Nicholas, the original Santa, was devoted to helping the poor. He heard of a poor man with three daughters who wanted to marry but could not afford to pay the marriage dowry. (Customs have obviously changed since the 4th century!) On Christmas Eve, Saint Nicholas passed by the family’s home and tossed bags of gold into the girls’ stockings which had been hung over the hearth to dry. With the gift, the man paid the dowries and his daughters married. Since then, stockings have been hung on Christmas Eve in hopes that St. Nicholas will fill them with gifts.
Over time, the bags of gold in the legend became balls of gold. With an eye to the family budget, parents stuffed bright orange Florida navel oranges — Florida gold! — into the toes of their children’s Christmas stockings to represent the golden balls of legend.
While it’s a charming story, the Christmas orange tradition may actually be rooted in a more modern custom. During World War II when food was tightly rationed and fresh fruit rarely available, English parents started tucking oranges into their children’s stockings as a special Christmas treat.
Whichever tale you believe, juicy Florida oranges are a delightful way to pass the Christmas orange tradition to the next generation.
From all of us at FloridaOrange.com, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!