Falkirk’s branch of Morrisons will be dishing out free oranges tomorrow (Saturday, December 16), in a bid to revive an old Christmas tradition.
The firm says its specially-commissioned research on festive customs shows that four in five households with children no longer put an orange in Christmas stockings.
Morrisons doesn’t say so explicitly, but if every child received even one orange the sales of the fruit could see a hefty seasonal spike.
Concerned that the tradition could disappear altogether, Morrisons will ensure hundreds of oranges wrapped in Christmas tissue paper are offered to Falkirk shoppers tomorrow.
They’ll also be handed a card explaining Morrisons’ version of the oranges story, in the hope parents will read it to their children.
Morrisons Falkirk store manager Nairn Diver said: “Like kissing under the mistletoe and putting out carrots for Rudolph, oranges in stockings is part of the magic of Christmas. “We want to help keep these traditions alive and help Falkirk’s parents pass on the stories behind them to their children, and if Father Christmas wants to swing by and pick up an extra sack of oranges we’ll be happy to help.”
Morrison says the oranges-in-stockings tradition stems from a story about Father Christmas dropping three gold coins down a poor family’s chimney for them to find in the morning.
They landed in the children’s socks which were hanging by the fire to dry, and to remind us he now leaves a golden orange.
Apparently this particular story was popular during the war years and immediately after, when fruits including oranges and bananas were very hard to come by - and therefore made very popular presents.
Other festive traditions which are said have become less common include knocking on doors to sing Christmas carols, with only two per cent still taking part, while just six per cent put a sixpence in the Christmas pudding - although two in three people still send out Christmas cards.
Morrisons says it has tried to rekindle interest in “great British Christmas traditions” (although in fact Christmas trees and Christmas cards are German in origin, and were brought here by Prince Albert in the mid-19th century).
In 2015 the supermarket gave away 50,000 sprigs of mistletoe (strongly linked with pagan Druidic rites of pre-Christian times), put carols on its in-store playlist for the first time in 15 years, and handed out free carrots for Rudolph the reindeer.
According to Morrisons’ research just one in four people now decorate a real Christmas tree (all those needles getting everywhere is a pest), and about the same number leave sherry and a mince pie for Santa.
Its findings are from a survey carried out by YouGov last month involving 2,029 British adults, who collectively have` 461 children.