A Very Citrus Christmas

Citrus at Christmas is on trend again but this duo has tradition and history that reaches far past Instagram and influencers posts. Since we’ve adapted to modern times where you can go grab an orange from the grocery store any month of the year, it is easy to forget that fresh citrus was once a distinctly wintry treat.

A few reasons we love the Citrus Christmas trend:

  • It’s beautiful
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It smells (and will make your home smell) amazing!

A Brief History Lesson

Oranges have been a part of the Christmastime tradition since the 19th century, along side the rise of hanging stockings near the fire. The tradition began with oranges being placed in the foot of the stockings, which is meant to represent the three balls (or bags or bars or coins) of gold that the Bishop of Myra, the real Saint Nicholas, gave to three poor maidens to use as dowries. It’s been said that this gift saved the three women from being sold into slavery.

There is even more to be said about the gift of citrus itself, in dead winter in Europe, these orange fruits must have been bursts of bright flavor. Oranges were seen as rare, exotic and expensive. This tradition of oranges was not born in any marketing department and started long before the holiday became dominated by gifts and glitz. Even after orange production across the US became common, areas in the mid-west like Oklahoma during The Great Depression referred to Santa Claus and Oranges both in the same breath, wondering if each were actually real.

We can look at oranges today as being a much more affordable alternative to gold, making it a budget friendly nod to the so-called “Miracle of the Dowries.” And remember, if you get an orange as a gift, it’s not just the gift of fruit—it’s a gift of everything that came before.

Inspiration For The Holiday

We’ve seen citrus in every holiday fashion at this point—garland, tree ornaments, center pieces and wreath accessories. Here is a round up of our favorites to get you in the spirit.

A simple dried citrus garland for your fireplace, or anywhere really. Love the pairing with the jingle bells to make it extra festive. You could even mix whole oranges into your store-bought or natural garland to add a bright and jolly moment to any of your living spaces or a stairway.

Covered in edible goodness thanks to the dried oranges and cranberry garland. Can you even imagine how bright this tree smells, not to mention how bright it looks!

Click the photo to get the DIY instructions for this rosemary and citrus holiday wreath. Love that this looks 100% natural and the use of the whole orange is so vivid and bold! Even the bar cart deserves special attention, especially if you’re serving up a citrus cocktail for your holiday party. Imagine this moment all over your house—what a beautiful sight!

Dry Your Own Orange Slices

Ingredients + Tools:

  • Many medium sized oranges
  • Baking pans
  • Cotton or paper towels
  • Oven
  • Mandolin slicer or a very sharp knife
  • String (for garland or ornaments)
  • Dull threading needle

How To:

1. Preheat your oven to as low as it will go (170°-200°).

2. Slice the oranges 1/4″ thick. The easiest way to achieve this size with consistency is with a mandolin slicer, however you can get there with a very sharp knife. Be sure to slice them width wise, starting at the bottom of the orange (look for the stem!) so they make a star pattern in the middle (from the core and seeds.) Slice as many as you care to make, and place them on top of a cotton or paper towel to dry. After all are sliced, place another towel on top and press gently to absorb as much moisture as possible. Do this several times before transferring the slices to a nonstick baking sheet.

3. Bake the oranges for 4 hours on your low-heat setting, turn them over and bake for another 2 hours or until they do not bend when you pick them up. If they flop, give them even more time. The orange slices should be crisp and firm when shaken.

4. Rest the oranges on a drying rack overnight before begin the craft you have planned.

Regardless of if you are making tree ornaments, garland or adding the orange slices as garland on your wreath, the next day you should be able to easily sew and string the oranges into place. If properly dehydrated, your orange décor should last well throughout the holidays, but will naturally darken over time.

Note: If there is any moisture or juice still in your oranges they will have potential to mold. If your orange slices will not dehydrate we recommend you use them for something else—like a salad dressing.

Information for this article was provided by Apartment Therapy and The Smithsonian.

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