Oranges are a Christmas tradition. Sometimes they come in the form of a clementine or a tangerine, but however they materialize, oranges are a very common stocking stuffer on Christmas morning. Many believe that the orange symbolizes gold (a story involving St. Nicholas’s version of dowry), and in the US, it was a common stuffer during the Great Depression when families couldn’t afford gifts.

Whatever the origins of oranges at Christmas may be, nowadays oranges are much more present during the holiday season than a once-off stocking stuffer. Come December, bags and boxes of “Cuties” (seedless mandarins) festoon the produce section, and in many homes, they are a wintertime constant in the fruit basket. This is largely and practically because oranges begin to ripen in the November (at least in the Northern hemisphere).

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With that in mind, it makes sense that we make the most of this seasonal fruit during the holiday season. There are so many ways we can take advantage.

Source: Amanda Slater/Flickr

Marmalade

Making homemade jams and marmalades is very simple and extremely enjoyable. In addition to spreading them on toast or bagels, they can be used in delicious deserts, as fillings for cakes and cookies.

Candied Orange Peels

Of course, it’s hard to resist just gobbling up those little oranges, so that leaves us with just the peels. Rather than throwing those away, they can be candied and dipped into a little chocolate sauce to make a delicious treat. These can be cooled, stacked in a jar and stored in the fridge, or that jar could be decorated and given as a homemade gift.

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Potpourri Oranges

For oranges that sit a little too long, perhaps just past their prime, they can be sliced into wheels and dried. Combine this with some cinnamon sticks, cloves, dried flowers, and other nice-smelling things to make potpourri. For a stronger aroma, just stick the potpourri mix in some boiling water and let the steam permeate the room.

Boiling oranges

Source: Herry Lawford/Flickr

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Orange-Scented Cleaner

Another productive way to use orange peels is to make natural cleaners with them. Adding the citrus peels to vinegar, the world’s best cleaning liquid, will both enhance the cleaning agents effectiveness and infuse the solution with citrus-y delightfulness. Now, all of that clean-up in the kitchen can be a little less expensive, healthier, and more environmentally friendly.

Orange Peel Scrub

When the idea is to not put anything on your skin you wouldn’t eat, it makes sense that all the ingredients for a bath scrub are likely already in the kitchen. A few tablespoons of olive oil (good for the skin) combined with ¾ cup of sugar and some zested citrus peel makes a fantastic exfoliator.

Orange Peel Candle

For those who can peel oranges without destroying the rind, this is an option. Or, if the oranges are being cut in half and juiced, this could work. The idea is to take half on orange peel, use the pulpy stem in the center as a wick, and fill the rind with vegetable oil. Light the “wick”, and it’ll burn for a few hours. It’s an orange peel candle.

Orange candle

Source: Ryan Claussen/Flickr

Orange Peel Bird Feeder

The orange peel candle is great for one half of the orange peel, and the other half can be used to build a natural birdfeeder. After all, winter is a tough time for the birdies. Food is a bit scarcer, so it’s nice for us to help them out with something nutritious. Mix up a little popcorn, some bird seed and peanut butter and put that mixture into the orange peel. Use some twine to hang it up. Watch the birds feast. They’ll love it.

Apple and Orange Garland

Going back to the dehydrated wheel of orange, they can be paired with dehydrated slices of apple, and these can be strung together to make a holiday garland or given hooks to make Christmas tree ornaments. These work great in the tree, adding some depth to the already pleasant smell of pine.

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The point is that, aside from throwing an orange in the stocking this year, there are loads of homemade holiday projects that could help to make the house more festive. Plus, it’s natural, biodegradable, and inexpensive to use oranges. It’ll help to make the holiday more eco-friendly.

Lead Image Source: Davizro Photography/Shutterstock