How lovely is an orange, sweet and yellow,
Crammed in a stocking ripe with Christmas joy
Candies and nuts and apples red and mellow
And every kind of toy.
God must have nursed a luscious thought within His mind
When He made oranges for humankind!
Now is the season for fuddy-duddies to reflect on the time when children waited anxiously all year to find a single orange in the toe of a shared Christmas stocking. In the words of a modern storybook, “They would save it for several days, admiring it, feeling it, loving it, and contemplating the moment when they would eat it.”
A review of contemporary news accounts and fictional literature shows this practice was hardly the hallowed tradition it’s become in popular culture. As early as 1855, a character in one of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sketches had to chide her niece and nephew not to laugh at a woman who thought an orange was a proper Christmas present.