Well, it’s not yet Thanksgiving (for those of you who only mention the green and red holiday after we finish our turkey — or tofurkey — and stuffing), but I suppose that since the city of Portland erected their Monument Square evergreen that I am allowed also to refer to Christmas.
I’m writing today about the dying tradition of Christmas oranges. I’m not sure whether or not it really spread to be that popular, but I have noticed several important mentions of Santa delivering a citrus to multiple stockings. The first time I was aware of this was a Christmas when Ryan was living with Uncle Bob and he woke up on Christmas morning to find his stocking stuffed to the seams with citrus. I thought it was completely contradictory, but a healthier option than the candy that always found its way into my sock. Then, in Little Women, I saw that each of those girls got an orange on Christmas as well. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house here in Portland had an entire orange tree that drew the attention of passers by who peeked in their Congressman’s window and saw something they’d never seen before and would likely never see again. It was a symbol in those days. In New England, you can’t grow citrus…ever. So for Christmas, the biggest holiday of the year, Santa would manage somehow to remind us at the beginning of our brittle-boned winter that there is some hope for warmth. It was magical to them.
We just don’t see that anymore in our culture. We’ve been offered anything we could imagine at any time at all. Want an orange? No problem! Even if you’re in New England in December. We’ll just ship it up from Florida, or California, or Belize! There’s no longer a magic involved, no appreciation for the wonderful fruits of the Earth. And at the same time that we consume all of our foreign fruit, our carbon footprint skyrockets! How much gasoline do you think was used up to get that orange to you? How much pollution did that truck produce just so you could casually enjoy it?
I thought, after considering all of this, that our time had passed us into a thankfulness-less state of being where we expect everything to constantly be available for us to enjoy on a whim. Then Ryan sent me this link. It’s a short memory that Flavius Stan, a 17 year old Romanian exchange student visiting the United States, recalls in 1995 of Christmas Eve 1989. On this, the night before his current dictator was scheduled to be executed, he scrapped his own plans of attending a movie with friends so that he could instead wait in a line that was already hundreds of people long because there is a rumor that there may be oranges for sale at a local market. He tells us that most of the children in his area have never seen an orange, but if they were to eat one they would be a hero among their friends. He waits in line for six hours and it is finally his turn. He purchases his oranges with his own money, brings them home, and gives them all to his brother who is so shocked and surprised that he dares not even touch them for awhile, but just stares at the fruit wondering if they’re actually real.
So, then I realized that it isn’t the time we live in now that keeps us from appreciating the miracle of oranges in a colder climate. It must just be our societal standards. We have allowed oranges to be normal for us while we ignore how unnatural it really is. Our values have completely changed since we live such comfortable, greedy, and predictable lives. I guess this is just a little observation that I wanted to share for no real reason but to share it. I think I’ll consider oranges for Christmas and not very often other than that. It seems the best way to balance the preservation of resources and the indulgence of a special holiday.