A child today would probably be disappointed by the goodies found in the Christmas stockings of the past. Some of the best present-day stocking stuffers may be considered an electronic or game (even our pets and newborns get in on the action now!), but in the past, stocking stuffers were more like candies, nuts, and fresh oranges, all of which were considered to be a real treat at the time.
The holiday tradition may have started during the Great Depression, a time when many families couldn't afford to buy holidays presents and gifted these sweet and hard-to-come-by fruits instead, according to the Kitchn. Waking up on Christmas morning and finding a fresh orange in your stocking was considered a luxury.
For some families, especially ones that lived in cold areas, oranges were an exotic treat. Tobias Roberts, a writer for the Huffington Post, recalls his Midwestern grandmother's fascination with the fruit. "As a child, every Christmas she would find an orange in the toe of her stocking; a mysterious fruit brought all the way from some exotic warm place called Florida," he wrote. "It was special and unique, because of its rarity and because of the natural limitations that made oranges a scarce commodity in Michigan." Eating this tropical fruit was a fun way for kids to celebrate the holidays.
There's also one more piece of history we can thank for this Christmas tradition—the legend of St. Nicholas. The jolly ol' fellow gave three gold balls to a poor man whose daughters couldn't marry because he couldn't afford the dowries, according to Smithsonian.com. The tale says that St. Nicholas tossed the gold down the man's chimney, where it ended up in the daughters' stockings, which were drying by the fire. Later in history, people began to honor the story and saint by gifting oranges instead of spheres of gold.
Today, the fresh fruit has been replaced by fun gadgets and other gizmos, but we'll always love the idea of giving our friends and loved ones something sweet to eat.
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