This year, before Halloween was even over I was seeing Christmas decorations. It made me wonder: What happened to Thanksgiving?
We used to send Happy Thanksgiving cards and plan big family reunions over Thanksgiving meals with tables loaded with recipes handed down over the years. Now it seems more like an afterthought and “Let’s get our order into Publix” for pickup the day before Thanksgiving, or “Better make that dinner reservation before they’re full!”
But to me, Thanksgiving always signaled the start of the fruit season and the frenzied pace that the gift fruit shippers would be under now through Christmas. Decorated tables always included family heirloom tableware and centerpieces of scented candles, pine boughs, cloves, and orange fruit and branches.
In ancient mythology, Hercules is challenged to steal the mystical golden apples (now believed to be oranges) from Hesperides’ garden as a wedding gift for Zeus, king of the gods.
The Chinese word for tangerine stems from the word “luck,” and the word for an orange sounds similar to the word “wealth.” Even today in China and Japan, bright orange fruits are used to adorn homes and shops to welcome the coming year with good fortune.
Since ancient times, oranges have been symbols of prosperity and happiness, so what better time to use them than at Thanksgiving and in weddings? Both for decorative purposes and in recipes, citrus has been used in a variety of ways shown in artwork throughout the ages and in Sunday brunches.
Thanksgiving meant the excitement of seeing friends and family back in town to visit relatives and a chance to catch up on loved ones’ lives. It was a chance to pause and reflect on what’s really important — each other and how we fared through the past year. It was about giving thanks for getting through the tough times and for all the blessings in our lives.
So, as we reflect on the past year and move into another citrus season, think of the blessings that the citrus industry has brought into your life. Even in the bad times, there is a ray of sunshine with memories of better times and hopes of more to come.
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.
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