USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Oranges’
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Saint Nicholas Day

Main Piece

“Saint Nicholas is like Santa Claus, but in Germany he’s still Santa. His day is December 6thand umm, the night before, you leave your boots out for Saint Nicholas. I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember the traditions that we would do.

So, you leave your biggest pair of boots out, and like, you know – however big your boot is how much you’re going to get. So, you want to leave really big boots out. And he leaves oranges, is like the big thing he leaves. And candies and chocolates and small toys in your boots. So, you leave them out the night before and you get your boots. But I remember oranges being the big thing.”

 

Context

The informant told me this story while we were exchanging fun things we used to do when we were little. We got on the topic of Christmas and told each other traditions we participated in when we were younger. After some research, the oranges are supposed to represent the gold balls that St. Nicholas would throw at children. St. Nicholas day is December 5th and children put out their shoes/boots that night so they can collect them the morning of December 6th.

 

Background Information

The informant was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. She comes from a family where both of her parents are lawyers in the military (jags). She has lived in Germany, Kansas, Virginia, and goes back to Oregon every summer to her family’s main home. While living in Germany, she spent Christmas there and her family participated in the Christmas tradition there.

I have heard of Christmas traditions such as “Elf on the Shelf” and leaving out your stockings to be filled with gifts and candies on Christmas Eve. My Christmas traditions never included these, but we would bake and leave cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. I have never heard of leaving out boots so early before Christmas, and wonder why Santa giving oranges was such a big deal.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Chinese New Year

“So for Chinese New Year, the date changes every year because of the calendar, but some of the things we do, because the culture’s really superstitious, is we take three oranges and put them on a plate in a triangle, and then you take a third orange and put it on top of the three to make something like a pyramid.  You make a few of these orange sculptures and put one in each major room of your house, like the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, you know.  So on actual Chinese New Year when my family goes out to dinner, we leave every single light on in the house because it’s supposed to let the light wash out all the spirits from last year and leave the house open to new ones and what’s ahead.  I don’t remember exactly why we do the oranges, but the lights wash out the spirits, so at least I know that.”

ANALYSIS:

This annual ritual is really interesting to me because I was never familiar with the customs surrounding Chinese New Year, so I found this really enlightening.  It’s super fascinating to see what parts of the customs the informant knows the meaning behind and what parts have just become arbitrary to the informant.  The idea of washing away the old spirits and leaving room for the new ones is something I find really interesting and poetic, and now I just wish I knew why the oranges are a part of the custom, but because the informant didn’t know, everyone the informant tells, including me, won’t know either.

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