Sam Burnham, Curator
Christmas has so many traditions that they often get lost in the crowd. Some of the ones that survive have origins that are forgotten or lost. So I was excited to learn that the orange I often found in my Christmas stocking is an old tradition with a story. I really agree with this Smithsonian article that this tradition, which has fallen into obscurity, needs to make a comeback. I’ve found just the way to make it a Southern tradition.
Santa Claus is traced back to the 3rd Century Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas. A story from church tradition relates that there were three woefully poor maidens and that St. Nicholas came one night and dropped three balls (or bags, or bars, or coins, depending on the storyteller) of gold through their window to serve as their dowries. Without this generosity these ladies would not find husbands as a dowry was a necessity in those days. That story is connected to the tradition of the Christmas orange that often appears in stockings on Christmas morning. The orange’s bright hue represents the glow of the gold. Hanging stockings for Santa became a tradition in the early 1800s and placing an orange in the stockings seems to have come into fashion about that same time.
I’ve only recently learned of the story and the tradition. I have a love of oranges and this connection is just one more reason to love them. The fruit is a reminder of my family roots in Florida and the sight of the expansive citrus groves that were much more common in my youth. Florida was much more rural then. Many of those acres that once produced citrus are covered in condominiums, shopping centers, or golf courses. I remember standing in a Walmart built on a former grove that had not once single piece of Florida fruit for sale. That was a huge shove towards Agrarianism for me.
This year the oranges are a little closer to home. Literally. The particular fruit I’m talking about are satsumas. My friend Brandon Chonko is raising them on his Southeast Georgia farm. The University of Georgia extension service recently recommended the cultivation of satsumas to Georgia farmers. The idea sounded just crazy enough to work so ol’ Birdmane put trees on the ground to see what would happen. After a couple years of attentive care and maintenance, he has harvested glorious Georgia citrus. Not just peaches or nectarines, we’re talking oranges. I never would have expected to have a serious orange raised north of about Howey-In-The-Hills or maybe Ocklawaha. But these oranges are from above that. North of Palatka, north of Green Cove Springs, north of Yulee, keep going, cross the St. Marys River and go out into the dirt roads of “Souega.” That’s where these are from.
So what’s the verdict? That’s the best part. I hate California citrus because it looks like the fruit in a dollar store still life or maybe some of the wax fruit in a bowl on your grandmother’s table. It’s perfect, bright colored, without a blemish. It tastes like candy, such a juicy sweetness but without that tart sassiness we love in our citrus. Florida citrus looks like it woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You don’t dare mention it’s appearance for fear of retribution. Oh it has a delicious sweetness but it also has that sting of the citric acid, that slap in the mouth that makes you feel alive.
These Georgia satsumas are like their Floridian cousins. They section like a clementine, meaning they peel easily and separate into individual sections. The beginning of each bite is that sweet juiciness that you expect but it has that same tart finish. It’s so odd to explain, that sweet and sour taste in the same fruit. But it’s so familiar, so beloved. It’s a piece of home.
This Christmas, if you’re down in the Souega - Southeast Georgia - area, look up Grassroots Farms and get you some of these delicious satsumas while they last. Drop them in your loved ones’ stockings, if you can resist eating them immediately.
Sam Burnham, Curator
Our friends at Save Art Heritage posted an article recently that reported that the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia has voted to remove a statue. That’s not much of a surprise. As the council has shifted further and further to the left they have become more and more hostile to any representation of history in their town. They have even moved to have Thomas Jefferson’s birthday recognition eliminated. It’s interesting to note that Jefferson is the only reason anyone even knows where Charlottesville is, or that it would even still be there.
The statue in question this time is of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis with Sacajawea, the young Shoshone woman who led them through much of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson has commissioned the two Virginians to explore the new real estate and report back. It’s one of the greatest adventure stories in American history.
As is the case with all history censorship, there’s a group who has taken offense to the monument. The council paid $75 thousand to bring representatives from the offended group, members of the Shoshone tribe, to Virginia to lobby for the monument’s removal. This suggests that the council found a potential problem and then went shopping for a lobby to support their nefarious cause.
The link to this story was shared on the ABG Facebook page and got a lot of reaction.
“Put it in a museum” is a constant talking point. What this really means is marginalize this thing or promise to move it to a place that doesn’t and never will exist. It’s a fake attempt at compromise. The truth is that our parks and streets are museums. These are the places our heritage is on display for public view and contemplation. This is where these monuments belong. This is where they should stay.
“It’s our history and you can’t change history” is an accurate description but it doesn’t go far enough. It is a veiled admission of wrongdoing. Lewis and Clark were on a mission of exploration, not exploitation. Cooperation with the people they encountered was paramount to their mission. Without that cooperation they would have disappeared into the west, never to be heard from again. This monument is not offensive to anyone who isn’t already looking for something to be offended about.
A better option would be to take opportunities to tell the story of Sacajawea. America needs to hear the story of the 16-year-old “purchased bride” of one of the expedition members who became a pivotal part of the mission and even GAVE BIRTH during this epic adventure. Quick, without googling it, what was her husband’s name? Does anyone remember him? He’s just a footnote in the Corps of Discovery. He didn’t make it on the Charlottesville statue or the golden $1 coin, but she did. No one knows him. She’s an American hero. Let’s hear more about this remarkable woman. Don’t take away from the story, add more to it.
As our friends at Save Art Heritage said in their post, the anti-history movement isn’t about “Confederate” anything. It’s about changing the narrative, demonizing the pillars of America and changing the narrative to something more in line with their personal philosophy and politics. This isn’t being done out of ignorance. It’s being done out of dishonesty. It’s a purposeful mission that started with monuments from the War Between the States and has spread and will continue to spread until someone stands up to the politically correct censors. You don’t do that with tiki torches, bad haircuts, and racial slurs. You do it with truth. You do it with correct representation of the past, and you do it with the knowledge that people will try to label you as a racist or a bigot or whatever other buzzword they pull out of their hat that week.
If no one stands up, this will progress to monuments to the World Wars, to Vietnam, the Gulf Wars. It will infiltrate battlefields and cemeteries. No part of our history or culture will be safe from censorship or revisionism. Renaming streets, institutions, buildings, and events will scatter our landscape until nothing of our past, our founding, or the very foundations of our society will be noticeable. The new narrative will be all that remains. And that’s just not acceptable.
Sam Burnham, Curator
From the dawn of time, from the days before people left written records of their ways and traditions, people have gathered around the fire. Thousands of years ago, the fire was life saving. The flames cooked food, provided the only source of essential heat on frigid evenings, and provided a level of security from predators.
As groups developed into tribes and civilizations the fire became cultural. This was where traditions were handed down, where stories and music were born. Without technology, books, or even a written language, evening firesides were the libraries of prehistory. Thousands of years of human culture survived because they were passed down in the warm glow of the fire. Many of those stories can still be told today and in more remote parts of the world they are still told in this fashion.
Closer to home the fireside offers similar opportunities. With friends and family gathered around the dancing flames, we share songs, stories, and laughter. Sometimes we share silence as just watching the flickering light transforming wood into heat and smoke has a therapeutic effect.
In a world of technology and haste it is nice to stop, go back to a simple, even primal activity. The fireside setting beneath the canopy of stars can be communal for a large group or romantic for a more intimate audience.
Dining can become an experience around the fire. Something as simple as roasting marshmallows for s’mores or a hot dog on a stick can be quite satisfying. This goes to another level when you upgrade the menu to meat, fish, or even deserts. Finding ancient methods of cooking opens new opportunities. Cast iron cookware offers opportunities for soup, chili, biscuits, cornbread, just about anything. Some of the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had was cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven on an open fire.
These cool nights of fall and winter in the South offer good opportunities to enjoy a good fire. Take advantage of this and allow yourself to get out. You can get back to the comfort of the heat pump by bedtime. Just be sure to follow safe practices and also acquire a burn permit where required.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire