Christmas and Oranges

Dear Reader:

Over the past year and a half of storytelling… several stories have presented themselves with a similar theme….and this is so true of the significance of oranges at Christmas time.

I know my mother (growing up as a child in the 1920’s) thought an orange in the Christmas stocking was the epitome of  happiness. To get a luscious, juicy fruit in the dead of winter was so unexpected…it had to come from a magical Santa. In many articles I have read on the topic…the orange filled out the “toe” of the stocking so well, too!

Soon the idea of fruit, nuts, and a little chocolate became the main “stay” of a Christmas stocking…and still does today…with perhaps. these days… a little toy or some “greenery” (in the way of cash) tucked in there too.

In the story from this book cover….The Christmas Orange…a new twist is added to some of the beautiful stories we have told earlier…remember (“The Christmas Orange”) short story last year (December 10 post) about the rebellious youngster and the  old Jewish man on the bus…the orange he found at Auschwitz…that gave him the motivation to keep living…and then last week (“The Slice of Life”)  the story of the Danish orphan and the other  children who each share  a slice of their orange with him when he doesn’t get one… turning a bleak Christmas into one of memorable joy…?

In the story from the cover picture above…another theme is repeated…the true meaning of Christmas. It reminds you of another “Miracle on 34th Street.” One little boy (Anton Stingley) shows up to visit Santa with a 16 page “request” list. Santa, disturbed by the precocious child’s demands, gives him, instead, one perfect orange for Christmas. Furious, the child gets an unscrupulous lawyer to take Santa to court and sue him for breach of contract.

Without giving the story away…the true meaning of  Christmas wins out once again when Santa explains why the orange was indeed the perfect gift…it is a very heartfelt story with layers of subtle advice without getting too “preachy.” It is written by Don Gilmor and will bring a smile to your face.

Last Thursday Brooke called me and her voice broke when she began telling me what her adult education class that done for her that day. At the end of class…one of the “students” brought a large crate filled with oranges to the front of the class to give her for Christmas from the entire class. Everyone had chipped in and Brooke was overwhelmed. She emailed me her feelings and reflections on this unexpected gift.

Dear Boo,

 Attached is a picture of ‘the box of oranges’. I just wish the viewer could actually ‘see’ what this gift really means. At the end of the day yesterday, my adult Ed class presented me with this gift simply… “because I deserve it”’ …they said.

 I was so touched and humbled by this extraordinary gesture! You see, this is a group of “well-seasoned” adults who have no jobs or money, no health insurance, and many worries. I have been brought to my knees knowing these facts of life about them.

  However, they know the secret of living. Not a day goes by that we don’t laugh and enjoy those 3 hours together… despite their many adversities as they go about the rest of their day. I have loved them since they came into my life. They have given ME far more than a “’box of oranges”. They have given me their hearts and taken mine with them.

  I am going back to your story about the orange (at Auschwitz) print it out for each of them, and write a personal note to each one. Love you, Boo,


Isn’t that beautiful…while talking on the phone Brooke said that she, too, like the Jewish man in the story of the orange, would never look at another orange the same…she would always see this first class of adult education students…proudly handing her a crate of oranges that everyone had “chipped” in to give her….many of whom are unemployed and have families and worries about providing for their own at Christmas.

(When Brooke told the secretary what had happened …she commented how obvious it was….on how much the class loved her…how obvious their affection for her was…and why her class was so successful.)

Just as I was about to call it a night …a website popped up when I typed in “Christmas and Oranges”…it was a Christmas story told by a famous radio personality (John Henry Faulk) and saved in the archives by the NPR (who was also responsibile for saving the “Slave Narratives” during the Great Depression).

 I sat right there and cried at the young boy in the story telling a stranger who gives him a lift in a pick-up truck on Christmas day… about the best Christmas he ever had…and the story starts with an ORANGE.

(I could almost swear that Uncle Herschel once told this story to the family a long time ago…back in the 50’s or 60’s…it is a country Christmas “classic” and many radio listeners …listen to it “religiously” every Christmas to this very day.)

* It does take about 10 minutes for the whole story…so give yourself the gift of time today or this evening-you won’t regret it… and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas. I promise you…you won’t soon forget this story.

So until tomorrow…may the taste of an orange bring back memories of the true meaning of Christmas.


“549 Tales left to Tell” 

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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5 Responses to Christmas and Oranges

  1. Gin-g Edwards says:

    Such a neat story and now I know why my Dad always brought oranges in on Christmas Eve. We always teased him about them, but he would ALWAYS buy oranges on Christmas Eve and bring them to us. Makes me smile to think about it.

    • Becky Dingle says:

      I remember Uncle Herschel telling me one time that the reason they ( “greatest generation”) appreciated oranges so much growing up during the Depression was that special trucks from Florida made a “Christmas” run and dropped them off at one site in each town and city….word went out that the oranges had arrived and the townspeople gathered to get them…that would be Christmas for most rural families…everyone had “orange” day marked on their calendars!

  2. Theresa Winders says:

    My mom tells me that in their stockings at Christmas they were lucky to get an orange, sometimes a stick of peppermint and/or a corn husk doll. That was Christmas–there was 8 of them. Disliking all of the commercialism of Christmas, when my kids were little I put fruit (apples and oranges) and nuts along with the candy canes , etc., in their stockings passing along the tradition.

  3. honey burrell says:

    What a beautiful story, once again. I too remember having oranges at Christmas in our stockings. The picture of Brookie’s gift really tells it all. She has been the true Christmas Gift to each and everyone of those adults that have entered her classroom. They thankfully realized it and with great gratitude gave her their best. What a true blessing she is to all of those adult students and everyone else that crosses her path. Love you both! Honey

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