Chestnuts, walnuts, dates and clementines are fruit and nuts traditionally associated with festive cheer. But the apple has also had its part to play in Christmas celebrations. In fact, the apple may have been the inspiration for a popular Christmas decoration.
In Europe during the middle ages, it was customary in churches on Christmas Eve to perform plays based on the story of Adam and Eve. Red apples hung on trees represented the forbidden fruit. The story goes that one year red apples were in short supply after a particularly poor harvest. An enterprising glass blower in Germany spotting an opportunity produced some red glass balls as a replacement. The Christmas bauble was born.
At Christmas Eve celebrations in Eastern Europe the apple has had a starring role. It is traditional at the end of dinner for the head of the household to cut an apple crosswise through the middle. Everyone around the table is handed a slice. Good fortune and health is assured for the family if the core in the middle of the slice forms the shape of a perfect star.
In China, on Christmas Eve it is a popular custom among Christian families to give family and friends apples wrapped in coloured paper. The origin of the tradition is not biblical but the result of a linguistic coincidence. The Mandarin for Christmas Eve is ‘Ping An Ye’ which sounds similar to the word for apple in Chinese ‘Ping Guo’.