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The Christmas Orange

The orange became part of Christmastime tradition in the 19th century, around the same time that hanging stockings near the fire became popular. The tradition of hanging holiday stockings dates back to at least 1823, when it is mentioned in the classic poem “The Night Before Christmas,” which notes that Santa Claus “fill’d all the stockings” before leaving via the chimney.

Placing an orange in the toe of one of these Christmas stockings may have had something to do with the story of the three balls (or bags) of gold that the Bishop of Myra, the real Saint Nicholas, gave to three poor maidens to use as dowries.This story is depicted in the painting "Saint Nicholas Providing Dowries" by Bicci di Lorenzo of Florence, Italy between 1433 - 1435.

According to some tellings of the story, Saint Nicholas threw the gold bags into their house through a window in the dead of night, and one landed in a stocking drying by the fire. It may have been from this incident that the custom grew for parents to fill stockings (or shoes) for children on Christmas night. This custom could also be the reason people started putting an orange—a much more affordable alternative to gold—in the toe of the stocking.

At the end of the nineteenth century in Europe, when the custom of gift giving for Christmas had spread, the orange was a rare and expensive fruit. The fruit was a special treat if you didn’t come from a family of means, and was likely brought from places like Valencia, Spain, or Ivrea, Italy, where there’s a longstanding winter tradition of attacking one another with oranges!

Though used throughout the year our Murano glass oranges are especially popular during the holiday season. We offer two sizes of oranges; classic and life-size. Did you know that our classic oranges come with a small loop on the stem so that you can hang it from a ribbon?

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