Why were oranges given at Christmas?

Until the 1960s, giving oranges at Christmas was one of the best gifts you could give to a loved one. A tradition far from that of our time, where, for a child, receiving a citrus fruit instead of a toy would almost constitute a joke. However, for our elders, orange was the greatest gift of childhood.

Orange, a ball of energy in winter

Orange is the traditional citrus fruit for the end of year celebrations. Harvested a little before winter, enjoyed in a hurry, in a preparation or not, on Christmas morning, the orange is often there, alongside the clementines, lychees and chocolates nestled at the bottom of the Christmas stocking.

Barely peeled, its smell invades the atmosphere and transports us. She is the touch of color that warms the heart and the juicy pleasure that we never get tired of! Incorporating orange into your preparations adds vitamin to your winter cooking. Its vitamin C, 47 mg per 100 g, provides a boost of energy, ideal in periods of cold winter.

The orange, an elite fruit

Under the Ancien Régime, the orange was considered a luxury dish, the present par excellence. The reason ? Its rarity. For good reason, the orange was then only cultivated in the Mediterranean basin. Impossible for this fruit to develop in France, which could only grow in a warm climate, sheltered from bad weather. Importing it was not a solution either, since its distance from France did not guarantee it would arrive in good condition.

The only solution: harvest the orange directly in France, in greenhouses: the famous orangeries. The first appeared in Versailles, then throughout the country, exclusively in castles, a place of elite and symbol of power. Building these large, heated rooms in numbers and harvesting a fruit from overseas could only make the orange expensive.

Orange, an exceptional present

December brings the Christmas holidays, an opportunity for the most modest to mark the occasion, and why not, indulge in a little splurge: buy one or two oranges to give to your family. If these households could not afford it, they turned to gingerbread, biscuits or sweets. Presents that the children loved.

A reputation doomed to disappear

It was only at the end of the 19th century, with the appearance of the first railways and trade networks, that the orange ceased to be a fruit reserved for the aristocracy. Making its transport from the Mediterranean basin to France simpler, orange becomes significantly more accessible. This was followed by the progress of agriculture in the following century, a turning point in the history of the orange harvest, which was now importable in large quantities.

This luxury product is no longer a luxury product. No more rarity, make way for the symbol: orange will have marked this phase of history. It remains today, in collective memory, a beautiful tradition!

Let’s celebrate the history of this winter citrus fruit and enjoy it throughout its season!


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