Updated: Dec 6, 2022
During Advent, you’ll often see oranges being given as gifts in stockings or shoes left out for St. Nicolas. You’ll also see homes decorated with garlands of dried orange slices. Oranges during Advent have a special meaning and it all has to do with St. Nicolas.
Legend has it that there was a poor man who had three daughters. The man had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried about what would happen to them after his death. Saint Nicholas was passing through town when he heard the villagers talking about the girls and he wanted to help. He knew that the old man would never accept charity so he decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept into the house with a bag of gold coins for each girl. As he was looking for a place to put three bags, he noticed stockings hung over the mantelpiece for drying. He put one bag in each stocking and left. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold coins and the girls were able to get married.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas on his feast day, December 6. It also led to the tradition of the gift of an orange in a stocking or dried orange slices decorating the house. The oranges represent the bag of gold coins and the dried orange slices represent the gold coins.