One of the oldest gifts associated with St. Nicholas can be blessed by the priest.
Many are familiar with the story of St. Nicholas and how he dropped three bags of gold through a window (or chimney) into the stockings of three daughters to save them from prostitution.
This story is one of the reasons why a tradition was started on the feast of St. Nicholas (December 6), where children put out stockings or shoes in hopes they will be filled with small presents.
Originally one of the most common gifts that “magically” appeared in their stockings was oranges.
There were many reasons why this gift was given. For example, oranges were much more difficult to acquire than they are now and were a true “treat” for any child.
Also, in many depictions of this event in St. Nicholas’ life, the three gold bags would sometimes look like three gold balls. Oranges were the perfect representation of the gold balls and reminded the children of this event in his life.
In some parishes there is a special blessing of oranges held prior to the feast of St. Nicholas, after which the blessed fruit is distributed to the faithful. One of the more common blessings used is one posted on the St. Nicholas Center website that was printed in a prayer book published by Liturgy Training Publications.
There are also blessings that could be adapted in the Book of Blessings that many priests use on a regular basis.
Another option a priest could use is in the Roman Ritual under the heading “Blessing of Any Victual,” to bring down God’s blessing upon the oranges.
Lord, bless + [these oranges], and let them be a healthful food for mankind. Grant that everyone who eats them with thanksgiving to your holy name may find them a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Whatever blessing is used, it is meant to remind the faithful of St. Nicholas’ act of charity and focus their attention on the true meaning behind the popular family traditions.