My grandfather in California raised oranges and we always received a box of citrus and nuts from him in December, so an orange in my stocking wasn't something that would leave me in awe. But the books and movies in that time period that made a big deal out of the event made me go looking for info on the subject.
In the 1880's oranges were plentiful in the U.S. being raised in Florida and California. And with the transcontinental railroad they could be transported efficiently. With oranges being harvested in the wintertime it was the perfect "fresh fruit".
The story I found that best tells why an orange is placed in the toe of a Christmas stocking has to do with Bishop Nicolas of Turkey. There was a poor man who had three daughters he wished to marry off but they were so poor they had no dowries. Because the man was a good man, on Christmas Eve Bishop Nicholas tossed three bags of gold down the chimney. A bag landed in eachone of the girls' stockings hanging from the mantle to dry. Due to the heat the gold coins melted and formed a gold ball.
To this day an orange or tangerine in the toe of a stocking symbolizes the gold ball and wealth.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century for a child to find an orange in their stocking was like finding gold. The fruit was a precious treat and it also symbolized their parents had enough prosperity to purchase the "gold" for their stocking.
I haven't used this in any of my stories but one day it might just end up in one.
Van Donovan returns to Pleasant Valley, Oregon where twelve years earlier as a boy of fifteen he left in handcuffs after standing guard for a bank robbery. He's learned a trade and excelled at it and is ready to prove to his father and the town he can amount to something.
Upon his return he learns the fate of the daughter of an innocent man who died in the robbery crossfire. To make amends he takes her out of the saloon and gives her a job, not realizing she'd been squatting in the very building he'd purchased for his business.
Can two battered hearts find solace or will the past continue to haunt their lives?
Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas filled with family, friends and good times!