Not everyone automatically thinks of apples when thinking of Christmas, which is fast approaching – but for many of our New England families, apples are incorporated into our traditional holiday meals and desserts – apple pies, strudels, pastries, cider, so much more!
A little research about Christmas traditions yields information about all kinds of intriguing holiday customs involving apples.
Have you ever sliced an apple crosswise through the middle to see if the core forms a star? This is often a fun learning exercise to do with kids in elementary school classrooms or at home, but in some cultures, it has more meaning. In Eastern Europe, it is a common tradition to slice apples in this manner on Christmas Eve. If the core forms a perfect star shape, it predicts a year of good health and fortune for the whole family. The head of the household typically is responsible for cutting the apple, and everyone gets a slice.
In Germany, Christmas trees are a huge part of the celebration and the trees are known as “trees of life.” They are customarily decorated with edible treats– fruits, especially apples, and nuts as well as sweets such as cookies and marzipan.
In the middle ages, it was customary for apples to be hung on Christmas trees as part of annual Christmas Eve church play performances. One legend has it, during a year with a particularly bad apple harvest causing a shortage of apples for the season, a German glass blower made round, red baubles designed to look like apples to hang on the trees in the village churches so the show could go on! That is how the Christmas balls so many of us trim trees with evolved into what they are today. (according to http://orchardorigins.org/2013/12/24/festive-apple-traditions/)
Christmas is not widely celebrated in China, but a relatively new tradition in some of the larger cities of China, is to exchange apples wrapped in brightly colored paper to friends and neighbors as a symbol of good will.
Do you have any special or meaningful traditions you share with your friends and family involving apples around the holidays? Decorations, treats, or favorite recipes?