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What’s the story of Christmas oranges?

Oranges are simple offerings, healthy and invigorating snacks, and symbols of good fortune. How & why did the tradition of gifting holiday mandarins or oranges come about?

It was mid-December and on our first night in Paris, the hotel concierge delivered a small, yet beautiful basket of delicious clementines* to our room. We were touched by this simple, elegant gesture, and it got me thinking about how this tradition came to be.

Turns out, we don’t just eat and gift mandarine oranges around Christmas because they are in season. There is also a meaningful gift with cultural significance.

Oranges as a Holiday Tradition

The mandarin orange is an important symbol of the Chinese New Year. According to S & J Mandarine Grove, the citrus fruit is connected to the sun and aligned with Yang energy: the invigorating side of the well known Yin & Yang. The Yang brings happiness and light into our spirits and homes.

As such, oranges are simple, yet powerful gifts that offer recipients abundance, joy and wellbeing.

In Canadian and European holiday traditions, oranges are also link to the story of Saint Nicholas putting gold coins in children’s stockings. Eventually over time, the Chinese and Japanese traditions of giving mandarins throughout the holidays merged with the European story, standing in as a symbolic representation of gold coins and thus, good fortune. In fact, I still received oranges or citrus in the toe of my stocking each Christmas.

* What is the difference between oranges, mandarins, clementines and tangerines?

Mandarins are a type of orange that are usually less round have a mild flavour and a thinner peel. Tangerines and clementines are both mandarins, clementines are the smaller fruit and are usually seedless. Mandarins are in season from November until March.

Nutritional Facts

A basket of oranges isn’t just an elegant gift. Did you know that one orange can provide 130% of your vitamin C needs for the day!

What else are oranges good for? According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, the list is long.

Oranges / mandarins / clementines & tangerines…

  • Help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels under control
  • Are high in Vitamin C, fiber, folate and vitamin B1
  • Rich in copper, potassium and calcium
  • Have healing phytonutrients which help lower blood pressure… not to mention they have strong anti-inflammatory properties!
  • Offer antioxidant protection and immune support
  • Help prevent cardiovascular disease
  • Prevention of kidney stones
  • Aid the absorption of iron
  • Support respiratory system and optimal health

If you aren’t craving an orange yet, check out this fun & delicious recipe inspired from Go Dairy Free for orange spice vegan pancakes!

Orange Spice Vegan Pancakes

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour. (Note: use coconut flour as alternative for gluten-free. Usually you need a bit less in quantity compared to normal flour.)
  • 3 scoops Arbonne Vegan Protein Powder – Chai or Vanilla flavour (I find the Meal Replacement powder performs better in pancakes, but both are good!)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1½ cups orange juice, plus additional as needed
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest


  1. Whisk the flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the juice, raisins (if using), and zest, and stir until just combined. A few lumps are okay. If the batter becomes too thick to pour, whisk in a little more orange juice, as needed.
  3. Put 1/2 a tablespoon of coconut or avocado oil on a pan, and begin heating it on medium-high. When the skillet is hot, drop the batter by quarter-cupfuls and cook until the tops are beginning to bubble. Flip the pancakes and allow them to cook for a couple more minutes until the underside is golden. Repeat until all of the batter is used up!
  4. Serve immediately. Freeze leftovers and reheat in the toaster for a quick weekday breakfast.
  5. Feel free to add some other delicious toppings such as orange slices and cacao nibs!


Related Articles

Are you interested in learning more about how whole foods can boost your health? Contact me about my Breakfast Club & 30 Day Healthy Living Program. These programs are designed to support your personal health goals and incorporate fresh foods and vegan products to improve your metabolism & boost your energy.

Another Holiday Gift Idea:

Chocolate Protein Ball Recipe

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August 4, 2019

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