Holiday Traditions – with apples

Long recognized as a symbol of health, apples have been part of global celebrations for centuries. They were decorations on trees, used in parlor games to foretell the future, and tucked into stockings as gifts. Whether part of your family’s holiday traditions or on a festive holiday menu, apples are everywhere this season. Here’s why.

Old Traditions & Stories

We love a good story involving apples. And it seems we collectively have enough love for apples that they feature in many of our traditions. Back in October we wrote about the ties between Halloween and apples, when in any number of creative ways an apple might signal who you were to marry. While they don’t quite play matchmaker at Christmas, apples have more than one starring role.

In Czechoslovakia, there’s a link between apples and fortune telling at the holidays. Stories say one would cut an apple in half (through the middle, not lengthwise) and ‘read the seeds’ as they presented. The number and placement of the seeds have different meanings and will show either good health or potential illness in your future. This can also be done with walnuts, but that’s another story.

Britain might hold some of the roots to the Christmas stocking and why the tradition evolved to include a tangerine (in the heel) and/or an apple (in the toe). Legend has it that French nuns would give stockings to the poor, stockings that were filled with healthy foods including fruit and nuts: the tangerine because it was rare and expensive, and the apple because it was known to be good for overall health.

Those holiday trees, glittering with pretty decorations? Possibly from Germany, where trees were originally decorated with edibles like apples as part of winter celebrations. As for the pretty decorations, they possibly evolved from those apples because there’s more than one rumor that apples led to our tree decorations today. Legend has it that a glassblower (some say German, but there’s at least one claim he was Italian) made round glass balls to hang on his tree in lieu of apples, either because of a bad harvest year (one legend) or he couldn’t afford the apples (another legend).

New Traditions

A cool new holiday story about apples comes from China. As our global community reaches further and cultural practices cross borders, the younger generation here has adopted a Christmas Eve tradition of giving apples. One theory has to do with language and a love for homonyms: Christmas Eve in Mandarin is ‘Ping’an ye’ and the term for apple is ‘Pingguo’, close enough to make a connection.

In one of these new apple-giving traditions, a person collects a small amount of money from 24 people (that connection to December 24) with different surnames and uses those funds to give an apple to someone as a token of good luck. Apples are bespoke with custom messages right in the apple’s skin, are decorated in fanciful ribbons and glittery paper, and can be sold at a premium.

We have other new traditions involving apples. In California, the Farmers & Merchants Bank gives apples to the Long Beach Police and Fire Departments and has since 1938. When the bank first learned it couldn’t technically give gifts, folks worked it so they could give apples to the police and fire crews as a thank you. They still do today. When December is over, January brings apple wassailing. Celebrations include drinking hard apple cider and a trek to the local orchard where wassailers sing and pour cider on tree roots to encourage next year’s good harvest. This old tradition is finding a new home with the next generation of cider makers.

It seems that wherever you go in the world, apples make an appearance in honoring traditions and celebrating good health. And since ‘tis the season for tradition and celebrations, we thought we’d round up a few cool holiday apple recipes to help you share the sparkle and joy.

Cool Holiday Apple Recipes You Might Not Have Tried But Really Need To

Substitute Arctic® Grannys or Arctic® Goldens in any of these recipes. 

If your family has a holiday recipe or tradition that involves apples, take a photo and share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest with the hashtag #arcticapples. Want to hear more about our apples? Join our newsletter and be the first to hear all the juicy details.

Until next time, Happy Holidays from our Arctic® family to yours.

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About Jeannette LeBlanc

Jeannette LeBlanc is the Communications Specialist for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, and lives in the sunny Okanagan Valley. She has a keen interest in sustainable food systems and the people working on responsible ways to help feed the planet.