Holiday Blog Post & Celebrating with Citrus

By Betzaira Ruiz

Update 12/14/21: Heritage Museum of Orange County has over 80 citrus trees on site! We grow grapefruit, lemons, tangerines, two different types of oranges (navel and valencia), and even a little bit of lime. Mr. John Anton Maag was a citrus grower, and seeing as HMOC is home to the Maag Farmhouse, we keep the citrus heritage close to heart. We were interested to reflect back on our Holiday Blog Post from last year, and see just how citrus is used during the various holidays around the world this time of year. Look for the 🍊 for updated citrus fun!


Las Posadas is a tradition that is celebrated in Spain, Latin American countries, and even in the United States by some Latinx people. Las Posadas starts on December 16 and ends on December 24, the day before Christmas. The reason why it lasts 9 days is because it symbolizes the 9 months the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus. During the 9 days of Las Posadas, people get together to re-enact Mary and Joseph looking for a place where Mary could give birth to Jesus Christ. Traditionally, a person will dress up as Mary and someone else will dress up as Joseph. Each night, during the 9 days of the Posadas, Mary, Joseph, and a group of people walk down the streets with instruments, singing and begging people to let them in. They arrive at a house and get rejected, which is then repeated every night until the 9th day where Joseph and Mary are finally given a posada (shelter) to give birth to baby Jesus. Once the reenactment is over, traditionally there is a big dinner feast where all the neighborhood is invited. The food that is usually served is tamales, pozole, Bunuelos, Ponche, Pan Dulce, etc. Each year a different house is assigned to be the posada, and so the celebration is different every year. Many compare this to Christmas caroling, but it is different. This tradition is more religious and it gives you the story of Mary and Joseph’s Journey. To learn more about Las Posadas watch this short video!


Each year Miniondas ( hosts Posada Miniondas with the Consulado de Mexico at Heritage Museum of Orange County. The event tends to fall on the first week of December and includes live entertainment, different types of vendors, crafts and activities, and much more during the celebration. The event brings in all kinds of Mexican food for sale and the journey of Joseph and Mary is reenacted. It is not uncommon for a donkey to make an appearance for the procession! Mary sits on top of the donkey and is walked by a parade of people to her posada. While the parade walks alongside her, they sing just like the traditional Posada. Personally, this is my favorite time of year. It brings family, friends, and neighbors close together. Being part of this celebration gives me a warm feeling because I see people enjoying their time and the food is incredible.

🍊Tangerines and Limes are considered to be a couple of the traditional food items to have at a Posadas celebration. Oranges can also be used in the traditional Ponche. Posadas is a traditional Christian celebration, and part of that celebration includes the breaking of a star pinata. The pinata will often have seven points representing the 7 deadly sins. The goal of the potential breaker of the pinata, is to triumph over those sins and overcome with faith and virtue, represented by the blindfold and the stick. Aside from candies and nuts that often fill these pinatas, any of the three citrus fruits or other fruits like the tejocate might also just find their way inside of the pinata!! Finally, at the end of the celebration, bags called aguinaldo are filled with sweets, nuts, or even fruits once again and handed out to guests!



December marks the time of year when people begin breaking out Christmas lights, presents, hot chocolate, and cookies! There is more to this holiday though, than material items and Santa Claus. Traditionally, Christmas is a Christian tradition celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is unknown what day or time exactly he was born. Historians actually believe he was born in the summer or spring because of the description of the weather in the stories. Winter tends to be cold, rainy, or snowy and the day he was born on is described as being warm. Despite the discrepancy of when he was born, for generations people have celebrated Christmas on December 25. Some people actually celebrate on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. They host a party or get together and at midnight they open gifts, this is supposedly the time that baby Jesus was born. Many other families celebrate on Christmas Day. Children get up early and open gifts with their pajamas on. Most businesses and stores are closed to allow workers to be with their families during this time. Even families that do not celebrate Christmas still get the day off to relax and enjoy their time with family.

🍊One of the most well known Christmas customs is to hang a stocking over the fireplace in hopes of receiving gifts from St. Nick. Many wake to find sweet treats in their stockings, including oranges. But why? There are a few accepted explanations. One story says long ago a wealthy man named St. Nicholas used his fortune to help others; he’s said to have thrown sacks of gold down the chimneys of those in need. Socks were hung by the fire to dry and the gold would often land in them. The oranges found in stockings today are said to represent the gifts of gold from St. Nicholas. Another reason has to do with the scarcity of the fruit and the funds to buy them. During hard times, like the Great Depression, purchasing oranges was considered a luxury for many families. Money to buy toys just wasn’t available, so oranges became a common and cherished gift. One last theory to share is that oranges represent the spirit of the season, giving. The segmentation of the fruit makes it the perfect treat to share with others.

For a full look at specifically Victorian Christmas traditions, check out our digital exhibition! In that exhibition, you will find mention of a couple of common uses of oranges in a traditional Victorian Christmas.


Hanukkah starts on December 10 and it is celebrated through December 18. It is also known as the Feast of Dedication and Festival of Lights. On each day of Hanukkah a candle is lit in commemoration of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The story of Hanukkah actually does not appear in the Torah. This is because the events that the holiday is celebrating occurred after it was written. Hanukkah is mentioned in the New Testament, however, when Jesus attends a “Feast of Dedication”.


Hanukkah is a celebration of the reclamation of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the city’s holy Second Temple. Around 200 B.C.E. Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria took control of Judea (the Land of Israel). Antiochus III allowed the Jews to continue practicing their religion during his reign, but his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes outlawed the Jewish religion and forced them to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C. E. Antiochus IV sent his soldiers to Jerusalem where they massacred thousands of people. They also desecrated the Second Temple by sacrificing pigs and erecting an altar to Zeus inside. A large-scale rebellion, led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, broke out against Antiochus. Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E. and his son Judah Maccabee successfully drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem. Judah and his followers went to cleanse the Second Temple by rebuilding its altar and lighting its menorah. The menorah is a golden candelabrum whose seven branches represent knowledge and creation. The candles on the menorah are supposed to be kept burning every night, but they only had enough oil to keep the candles burning for a single day. The oil, however, kept the candles burning for eight nights, which is how long it took to find a fresh supply. The Jewish sages proclaimed that there would be a yearly eight-day festival to celebrate the miracle of the oil burning for eight days.


Hanukkah is a national holiday in Israel where students do plays, sing, and have parties. Children receive presents and gifts of money and play dreidel, one of the most famous Hanukkah traditions. Here is a small 3-minute video explaining what Hanukkah is.


🍊Traditional religious celebrations like Hanukkah, often have slight alterations in traditions when celebrated in different parts of the world. For instance, in Morocco, Jaffa oranges come into season around the time of year that Hanukkah is celebrated, and therefore have become closely associated with the holiday. Moroccan Jewish people enjoy a kind of a doughnut called a sfenj, which is made with the juice and zest of those Jaffa oranges.


What is Kwanzaa? It is an African American celebration of life from December 26 to January 1. The name Kwanzaa is part of a larger phrase in the African language of Swahili that means “first fruits of the harvest”. This holiday did not originate in Africa and it is not an African Christmas. Dr. Maulana Karenga first introduced the festival in 1966 in the United States to welcome the first harvests to the home and help reconnect with family, community, and culture. The seven principles of Kwanzaa, also known as Nguzo Saba, are: unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), purpose (Nia) faith (Imani), creativity (Kuumba), and cooperative economics (Ujamaa). Each one of them is represented in a candle, three red, one black, and three green. This is very similar to Hannukah in how candles are used to represent concepts of the holiday. There are also 7 main symbols used which are crops (to represent the history roots of African Americans), place mats (for self- actualization), candle holder, (a reminder that a their ancestral come from Africa), ear of a corn (symbols the younger generation) gifts, (represents the commitment parents have with the children) and the Unity Cup (used to perform the libation on the 6th day). Gifts are given out on December 31 and people celebrate with a banquet of different types of food, usually from various African countries. The three main colors seen are red, green, and black. Red presents the blood that unites everyone together, green for the African land, and black for the people. To learn more about this amazing celebration watch this short video.


🍊As was stated above, the on-the-surface meaning behind the name Kwanzaa relates to “first fruits”. Though this is a fairly new holiday, the dishes served at Kwanzaa feasts are generally of traditional African descent, but there is no menu to follow! The holiday fosters creativity, and one of the easiest ways to get creative? Through food! Many of the dishes served at a feast during Kwanzaa can and do include different varieties of citrus.


Omisoka is a Japanese New Year’s holiday celebration. Each year people write well prepared New Year’s Holiday cards to friends, family, and co-workers. Often parties, called Bonenkai, are thrown to forget about the last year and give gifts to celebrate the new year. As for the food, the most popular dish served is Mochi and the “year passing noodles”, which is a type of buckwheat noodle called Toshikosji Soba. Each long noodle represents “crossing over from one year to the next”. Right before midnight hits, a Buddhist temple strikes its bells 108 times to purify the people from the 108 earthly passions. Many families also clean their homes in order to purify them before the New Year arrives. After, many people will go to the Shinto shrine or temples to pray and watch the first sunset of the year together. The shrine will make a sweet non-alcoholic drink made out of rice called amazake. The first New Year meal they have is a soup called ozoni. Here is a quick video of the Omisoka celebration.


🍊Food is an important part of Omisoka, and citrus has its place in the celebration! Traditionally eaten on the first Saturday or Sunday of January, Kagami mochi or “mirror rice cake” is made of two stacked, round mochi topped with a daidai, a Japanese bitter orange. It’s important that the daidai still has a leaf attached. While there is no agreed upon reason for why the Kagami mochi is incorporated, there is plenty of symbolism within the elements included. The two mochi are said to represent the coming and going years, while the daidai symbolizes familial ties across generations.

🍊Just before Omisoka, Toji is celebrated in Japan. This celebration symbolizes the delicate balance of the life force, acknowledging the cold of the winter and welcoming in the impending return of spring. One Toji custom is the Yuzuyu, a hot bath with Yuzu citrus fruit. A small lemon known for its cleansing and healing properties, the Yuzuyu promotes good health and wards off bad spirits.


New Year’s:

The official date for New Years is on January 1 in the United States, but many people celebrate it on December 31. It is a time where people reflect and set up goals for the new year to come. Where people can be thankful for entering a new year with family members. There is an old tradition celebrated where people host masquerade parties and once midnight hits the masks are taken off to uncover their faces. Now the majority of people across the United States watch the count down on television as part of the festivities. Many channels show the countdown celebration in Times Square in New York City to see the ball drop right at midnight. A fun fact about the New Year’s ball is that it weighs 11,875 pounds and it is 12 feet in diameter. The crystals that make up the ball are made in Waterford, Ireland. It was first introduced in 1904 and there have been 7 versions of the ball since then. During this moment people give each other a kiss or a hug. The next day people wake up early to enjoy the Tournament of Roses parade that is hosted every year in Pasadena, California. The Rose parade was first introduced in 1877 and the route is about 5 miles long with thousands of people participating. It is aired every year live on television for people to enjoy from their homes.


🍊Around the world, New Year’s Day is celebrated with symbolic citrus dishes. This has to do with the ripening and harvesting of citrus during the colder months. In Russia, mandarins and tangerines are particularly popular to include on the table. There was a time in Russia, during the Soviet Regime, when access to tangerines became a luxury. People would save their money to buy them once a year, to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. To this day, the smell of tangerines is associated with the holiday.


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