Sam Burnham, Curator
This time of year we speak of joy, hope, redemption, and celebration. There are so many songs, even one that reminds us that this is the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Its important to note that during this time can drives, food banks, and homeless shelters are kicking into overdrive. The Salvation Army is deployed with their little red kettles, “doing the most good.” suicide hotlines are working long hours. As a good friend once told me, “this is a messed up time of year for a lot of people.” That’s an easy truth to forget. All the festive and celebratory moods overshadow those who are missing someone, wresting with their past, or dreading their future. That larger shadow makes the season even more frustrating for folks having a hard time.
When God came in human form and walked among us He taught us about love, about compassion, about looking out for each other. He taught us about underdogs, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the broken. He charged us with being light in a dark world. How we treat these people during this season is the real reflection of our Christmas spirit. Compassion, charity, and friendship should define the season. It could be as easy as an open ear. Sometimes just being available can be enough to alleviate the weight on a troubled soul.
Detractors and critics like to point out that Christ was not likely born this time of year. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. I don’t find the point to be relevant in either case. The point is that he was born and he gave a message and lived an example that should inspire us all this time of year.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that we hang lights, put candles in the windows, and illuminate our homes on the longest, darkest nights of the year. We celebrate the Incarnation during our darkest hours. We recognize that God comes to us when we need him the most.
We are beseeched to remember the reason for the season. That often is limited to a contest to put the manger in a place as prominent as the Christmas tree. But we miss the mark if that’s where we put our focus. More than elevating an image of Christ, our goal should be to remember and enact the those words, those teachings, those promises that Christ spoke among us. Love your neighbors, care for the sick, for widows and orphans, feed the hungry. As community-minded people we cannot wait for, or even expect, the government to do this. This is our charge, our responsibility. The darkest and longest nights of the year are when the lights shine the brightest. We’ve been instructed to be lights. Now is the time.
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.
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.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire