I will be honest, I struggled to get in the “Holiday Spirit” this year. I was lacking a lot of Jolly and a little bit of Holly too. Reviewing social media,I could tell I was not the only one struggling to be festive.The holidays can remind us of people lost, relationships that have soured, and things we don’t have. In mid-December when I should have been gearing up for Christmas, our little family was hit with the flu.I kind of wanted to cancel Christmas.Sitting at home with a sick kid, I started thinking about how there were going to be fewer gifts this year and less time to buy them.Inflation and the holidays were at war with each other.However, having a ten year old at home, I knew I could not get away with calling off Christmas.In the middle of these somber thoughts I suddenly heard a car door shut. I live in the country, so hearing a car door shut usually means I have company or UPS is dropping off a package.Looking out my front door, I could see a holiday tradition unfolding.For over 30 years my family has received a box of oranges every year as a gift from a dear friend of my parents.Even after their passing, my parents’ friend has faithfully delivered a box of oranges every year.This year I stopped him before he could make it to the porch, warning him of our flu-ridden house.So the oranges were placed on the porch steps at safe distance.Turns out oranges are great for the flu, and my little boy and I began right away slicing these beautiful juicy oranges.Curious, my son asked, “Why does he always bring us oranges?”And so I got to share the story of this sweet holiday tradition.My dad told me stories about getting an orange for Christmas as a young boy, and it being a treat.In today’s lifestyle for most of us, oranges are readily available and in all kinds of varieties and colors.The history of gifting oranges goes back to humble times and holidays that were not consumed by capitalism.There were far more gatherings than gifts in the days of the orange giver’s childhood.In fact, my parent’s friend started his tradition as a younger man, gifting his family, and co-workers with oranges. The orange-giving grew over the years, and expanded to more friends.Soon the orange giver was driving all over town, joyfully giving oranges while spreading a little holiday cheer.Our two families were very close, and so every year we received a friendly knock on the door and a big box of plump oranges.I can remember the years the oranges went into the Christmas Jello and my mom and I would creatively use the entire box of oranges. In my early married days, my mom would divide her large box of oranges up and gift some to my household.I learned to make Orange Marmalade and it quickly became a holiday favorite in our house.I have a sweet memory of my oldest son announcing to his grandfather, “Mom brought you some of her Orange Mamma-made!” This year the gift of the oranges was just a little sweeter. The box left on my steps said to me, “you have not been forgotten”. In Spite of the grips of the bad economy, the wars of the world and flu in my house, someone special thought of me and my family.Since my parents dear friend is aging, I know it is not easy to pick up boxes of oranges and drive around town and deliver them. The oranges probably cost more this year, and the weight of the boxes probably felt heavier. But even so, he thought of my little family and made sure we got our Christmas oranges.I would say this Christmas tradition has spanned over fourty years.There are not many people who can say they have kept a holiday gift-giving tradition for over fourty years.Much like the days of old and the history of the orange gifting, it is not about the lavish gifts but the gift of being remembered.
Here are my instructions for making, “Orange Mamma Made”. The recipe is an easy version of marmalade that tastes yummy with toast or gingerbread. I will warn you this is an overnight recipe.
- Rinse off four medium to large size oranges
- Dice up oranges and place them in a large saucepan
- Almost cover oranges with water and let sit overnight (the oranges will absorb most of the water overnight)
- Turn oranges on medium heat and stir
- After they warm up, mash the oranges helping them release juices and break down any large chunks
- Bring oranges to a slow boil
- Add sugar (most recipes add a cup of sugar per orange, but y’all I can’t bring myself to do that!) I usually add one cup of sugar and ¼ cup of honey for the entire batch of marmalade
- Stir sugar and oranges together return to slow boil
- After well blended, remove from heat and let cool
- Ladle into jars and refrigerate
You could preserve the marmalade by water-bathing the jars, I would recommend doubling the recipe and making a larger batch if you wish to water-bath. A couple of other ideas for using oranges are drying them out and using them on your Christmas tree, or using sliced oranges and fresh orange juice as a glaze on your Christmas ham. While I was recovering from the flu, my favorite way to eat these beautiful oranges was to simply slice and enjoy.
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