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Christmas scene with orange coming out of stocking UncleDmytro/Getty Images
REAL GOLD: An old legend holds that an orange at the bottom of your Christmas stocking represents gold left by St. Nick. It reminds me that like the orange, the Nativity scene is often shoved aside at Christmas.

Why orange in stocking is great tradition

Joy’s Reflections: My grandkids just might get oranges in their stockings this year.

It’s my favorite part of giving at Christmas for my children and grandchildren. It’s like diving into a little treasure hunt until you reach the toe of the sock. I take great consideration in each stocking. After all, growing up, it’s where I found those tasty Lifesaver candy books, little treats and always an orange stuffed in the bottom.

On Christmas Eve, the stocking was the last thing we put into place before we went to bed. We didn’t have designated Christmas stockings — we literally had our dad’s long brown socks with the red heel.

It was the first thing we retrieved in the morning. We’d find our place on the floor or couch, staking our claim as we anticipated raking in a gold mine. We plunged our hands into dad’s sock and came out with a fistful of sugar or treats — all the way down to that orange.

The orange was the transition marker. You could get on with the presents under the tree after it had been dumped out and then thrown back into the bottom of the sock because, let’s face it, there was sugar and shiny wrapping paper distracting us.

Revive the orange tradition

Legend has it that St. Nicholas learned of a poor man who wasn’t able to find husbands for his three daughters because he had no dowry for each of them. So, as St. Nick tossed three sacks of gold down the chimney, each one landed in the girl’s stockings that were hanging by the chimney to dry.

The orange is a symbol of the gold that was left in the stockings. I love oranges, but a sack of gold would be nice.

I tried oranges in the toe of the sock for my kids and they never seemed too impressed. Grandkids haven’t been jumping up and down about it either. So, I started putting them on the table for Christmas morning breakfast. They can’t really compete with the biscuits and gravy, but at least I try.

I’ve grown quite sentimental about that lonely orange attempting to compete with all the bells and whistles on Christmas morning. Maybe we should shift the legend and say it represents a humble little manger.

No one pays much attention to that manger any longer either. There’s too much to plunge our self-absorbed souls into. We give him a token nod and then toss him back in the box when we take down the Christmas tree to collect a year’s worth of dust.

I think this is the year for the orange to make a grand reentrance to the bottom of those stockings. Rather than tossing them back in, let them be a tangible reminder of a greater-than-gold gift we have received with the birth of a Savior.

McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

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