Whether piled high on the family dinner table, or gracing visitors with their bright scent in proud trays on the mantel, the glorious abundance of citrus fruit at Christmas time is truly a wonderful sight.
CITRUS FRUIT SIGNALS THE BEGINNING OF THE FESTIVE SEASON
A large variety of citrus fruit come into season over the cold winter months.
The fragrant citrus blossoms, zagara, appear all year round for many varieties, but they are especially abundant in winter.
Citrus can take up to 12 months to ripen on the tree, and whilst we see citrus fruit available throughout the year at our local stores, truth is that they are at their juicy best in the cold winter months.
It is no coincidence then that clementines and mandarins in decorative trays and large intricate bowls are seen almost in every home in Italy at Christmas – we almost forget that they were once a luxury that was impossible for the average family to get their hands on.
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS… AND ORANGES
Ever wake up on Christmas morning to find your Christmas stocking full of vibrant oranges as a child? The story of Christmas and the beginnings of St Nicholas, who later evolved into the figure that we call Santa Claus, has a curious connection with oranges.
Legend goes that St Nicholas, a Bishop who had inherited a large sum of money and lived a life dedicated to helping others, had overheard the story of a concerned father who couldn’t marry off his beautiful daughters because he was too poor.
One night, St Nicholas tied together three sacks of gold and tossed them into the family’s chimney, where they fell into the daughters’ stockings that had been hanging by the fire to dry.
Needless to say, the daughters found the fortune left for them the next morning and the story has a happy ending.
A popular theory is that this evolved into the tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace at Christmas, and rather than gold, parents started placing oranges in children’s stockings as a blessing of good fortune and health.