Did Old Saint Nicholas leave nuts, peppermint sticks, and oranges in your stocking on Christmas Eve? Looking back, I used to think that was the strangest gift to leave a kid. Oh, don’t get me wrong, just knowing Santa had filled those stockings always made it fun and exciting to empty them on Christmas morning, and I loved eating everything in there, but why nuts? Why oranges? It just seemed like an odd choice. I mean, if you’re going to put food in my stocking, then how about some Christmas cookies and fudge? Come on, Santa!
As I grew older, I reasoned that maybe that’s what my parents got in their stockings when they were kids, so it was part of their Christmas tradition, one that brought them joy and happiness, an experience they wished to share with their children. My parents were born in 1935 and lived in the rural foothills of South Carolina. Things like oranges, Brazil nuts, and peppermint sticks were real treats back then. They were in fact, a rarity. Think about that and let it sink in.
As I recently called up some of these fond memories, I decided to do a little research, so I consulted professor Google and I discovered that oranges in Christmas stockings is a tradition that lives on even today! I also discovered a charming little story behind the tradition.
St. Nicholas was born in what is now present-day Turkey. He inherited a large sum of money and devoted his life to helping others, and eventually became a bishop. As the story goes, St. Nicholas heard of a poor man who could not find suitors for his three daughters because he had no money for a dowery. St. Nicholas visited the poor man one night and tossed three small sacks of gold down the poor man’s chimney. His daughters had stockings hanging by the fire to dry and the sacks of gold just happened to fall into the stockings. The oranges left in stockings today are a symbol of the gold that St. Nicholas left in the stockings for those three girls.
It’s a charming story and whether true or not, I’m inclined to believe that during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, oranges were a scarce fruit, especially in the north, and with many families stretched thin and financially strapped, finding an orange, a few Brazil nuts, and maybe a peppermint stick in your stocking was a luxurious treat.
Take stock of what God has blessed you with this Christmas season and be sure to share your good fortune with those in need. Remember the poor, the sick, and the shut-in. Remember those that are hurting, those that are lonely, those that are afflicted and suffering. But most importantly, remember the lost and what Christmas is all about…
“And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” ~Linus Van Pelt