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Oranges and Nuts
~The perfect Christmas Gift~

by Beth Boswell Jacks

    What did children get for Christmas before some smarty invented batteries? According to the stories told by my parents, booty back in the early part of the 20th century wasn’t much – a set of dominos or jacks, a rubber ball, perhaps a dolly, and almost always an orange and some nuts.

    Now, I truly love oranges and nuts, but I remember being completely unappreciative as a child when my stocking was filled with big fat oranges and pecans (in the shell).

    What was Santa thinking? I could go to the kitchen and get oranges and nuts. They took up way too much room in my dinky stocking – room that should have been crammed with trinkets and sparkly things.

    But my parents (Santa’s helpers), partially from tradition and partially from admirable thrift, filled our stockings with oranges and nuts and that was that. We could like it or lump it. Believe me, there was no verbal complaint registered from any of us four kids.

    And, fifty years ago, not only were the contents of our stockings less than exciting, the stockings themselves were drab and uninviting.

    Each year we nailed Daddy’s black socks to the mantle and had long, shapeless stockings with barely room enough for all the citrus and squirrel food.

    But not today! Now we’ve got stockings of embroidered velvet and delicate cross-stitching, stockings (with batteries) that play Christmas ditties, hand-painted and monogrammed stockings, stockings for the dog and cat. You name it, there’s a stocking.

    We pay big bucks for these fancy new stockings when Daddy’s socks worked well enough. And you didn’t have to pack them up after Christmas. We just emptied the oranges and nuts . . . and put the socks back in the dresser drawer.

    Another holiday tradition, non-battery-requiring, when I was a growing girl was a cuddly reading annually of Clement Moore's “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Only the Nativity Story is better at warming the heart.

    Clement Moore was an academic, a Biblical scholar and the son of the Columbia University president. For Christmas 1822, he wrote “Twas the night before Christmas . . .” (“A Visit From St. Nicholas”) for his children, and the next year his wife sent the poem to the Troy Sentinel editors in New York, who published Moore's work anonymously.

    Scholars say “A Visit From St. Nicholas” was revolutionary; for the first time Santa Claus was portrayed as a regular old guy who brought gifts to every child, rich or poor.

    I suppose Santa just ran out of trinkets and toys and sparkly things at some point and had to dig down in the bottom of his sleigh for oranges and nuts. As a kid, I couldn't figure any other explanation.

    But, like many of you, I get nostalgic for old-fashioned Christmases with beloved stories and simple gifts in Daddy’s socks.

    I’m thinking I might fill bowls with popcorn and cranberries for stringing as I did in 1992 when I broke my ankle and couldn’t move around much. Except for the surgery, the ankle-breaking experience wasn’t all bad. I sat in the den by the fire, listened to Christmas music, and yes, I DID string popcorn and cranberries for the tree.

    Hey, maybe this Christmas we could also roast pecans and squeeze oranges into divine ambrosia.

    Oranges and nuts – yes! What a novel idea!


For more holiday humor from Beth Jacks, read Worst Little Christmas Pageant Ever!

Editor of USADEEPSOUTH.COM, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of Grit, Guts, and Baseball,
the stories of Coach Sank Powe, featuring tales of sports and race relations in the Mississippi Delta.
Her second book, SNIPPETS, is a collection of 60 of her newspaper columns.
And now there's a SNIPPETS II with many of the best columns from 2004 to 2006.
More of her work may be read at USADS by clicking this link: SNIPPETS.

Contact Beth at

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