Photo courtesy of the Oppenheimer Group
For me, growing up in Vancouver, the sight and smell of mandarin oranges has always signalled the beginning of the holiday season. In the 1960’s the arrival of the small, sweet seedless oranges from Japan was a seasonal rite. As I recall, the first freighter of festive fruit from Japan, “Satsuma” oranges would be unloaded at the Port of Vancouver in the beginning of December. This was a big event – the orange shipment was greeted by Santa accompanied by traditionally garbed Japanese dancers as they welcomed the seasonal oranges. Local news cameras would capture the whole event on film and report on the fruits’ arrival on the six o’clock news.
Originally shipped in small wooden crates the oranges were individually wrapped in green paper. The design of the crates required the top slats pried off with a hammer before they could be unwrapped and eaten – but anticipation was part of the magic. And as kids we would attempt to peel the small fruits in one continuous piece – I must admit this is something I still do when no one is watching. Once empty the wooden crates could be re-used for a variety of purposes – toy or shoe storage, doll furniture or even stacked could stand in for a side table. Eventually these cool crates were replaced by lighter weight cardboard boxes that are still in use.
I found a great article from B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom, (courtesy of the Oppenhemier Food Group), that covers the history of the oranges. Well worth a read during this festive season. http://www.aitc.ca/bc/index.php?page=japanese-mandarins
Photo courtesy Chilliwack Museum and Archives