The vibration of the orange tree is hearty and gentle, bold and elegant, vibrant and soft with a long history of symbolism and meaning in a variety of cultures.
In many traditions, the orange tree is associated with love and divination. Orange trees are also considered lucky, and they are often used in money spells and rituals. Orange trees also have a strong connection to healing, beauty, youth, and vitality. In some cultures, the orange tree is also seen as a symbol of the sun.
Orange tree symbolism varies from culture to culture, but some common threads run through many of the traditions.
In Spain, there is a Christian legend about when Mary, Joseph, and young Jesus were journeying and came across an orange tree being guarded by an eagle. Upon request from Mary, the tree gave them fruit, three oranges in total. One represented the father, another was for the mother, and the last one symbolized their son.
Whether you see the orange tree as a symbol of luck or love, there is no doubt that it is a powerful symbol with a long history of meaning.
About Orange Trees
Citrus trees are prized for their fruit and Vitamin C content, of which there are about 15 species. These semi-evergreen spiny shrubs or small to medium-sized trees originate from Southeast Asia but have since spread throughout the world’s subtropical and warmer temperate regions.
The citrus genus includes trees like lemon, grapefruit, mandarin and lime. The alternate leaves on these trees are thick and leathery, with small dots called glands.
These flowers have either white or purplish petals that are usually fragrant. They often have 5 petals along with 20 to 60 stamens in bundles and the large fruits from these trees have an aromatic peel that’s leathery to touch; inside there are 8 to 15 internal segments containing juicy pulp.
The orange tree is native to northeast India, but it has spread to China and other parts of the world. The tree was first mentioned in writing by the Arabs, who adopted its Sanskrit name, “nagarunga”.
The Moors brought the orange to Spain for both medicinal and religious purposes, where it then spread to the New World. Although oranges were known in Sicily as early as 1002, the Portuguese are credited with introducing them to Europe in the 16th century after encountering them in the Far East. The Italians first called this new fruit “portogallo”, after its place of origin, and this name was adopted by Greeks, Arabs and Kurds before eventually becoming simply orange.
The practice of orange farming began in Europe by way of Portugal, whereas the Germans got their first experience with orange trees from Italy. The fruit was called Apfelsine by the Germans, which translates to “Chinese apple”. However, the famous German physician Paracelsus decided to rename it pomerancia; a combination of two Latin words for apple (pomum) and its later Italian name arancia (orange).
Soon after the orange was discovered in cooler countries, people invented the orangerie- a special conservatory or greenhouse designed specifically for oranges. The orange became very popular during the Baroque period and was considered a fruit of royalty. It often appeared in paintings, jewellery, garden sculptures, and everyday objects such as wax candles, metal utensils and glassware. Many cities and estates competed to see who had the best orangeries.
The oldest German carving of an orange, located in Stuttgart, dates back to 1568. The sculptors at the time saw the fruit as a symbol of prosperity and good luck; however, this was not innovative symbolism by any means. Over 1,000 years before the carving’s creation, the Roman poet Virgil had already nicknamed oranges “lucky apples.”
Marmalade and other orange-flavoured preserves can only be made from bitter or Seville oranges (C. aurantium). Pectin, which is necessary for making jams and preserves set correctly, comes from the peel of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits.
Oranges contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are beneficial to the body. However, depending on where they come from, oranges can have high or low levels of vitamin C.
For example, some oranges may contain up to 0.002oz (60mg) of vitamin C while others may not contain any at all. In naturopathy, it is believed that fruits “cleanse” the body by helping release toxins stored in cells into the bloodstream.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe that oranges create internal heat, which can worsen skin conditions like eczema. They advise pregnant women to avoid eating oranges because they could lead to hyperactivity in the baby.
It’s interesting to note that oranges have also been identified as a trigger food for hyperactivity in children living in Western countries.
Oranges are known to have cooling properties in ayurvedic medicine and can be used to treat internal heat, such as toxicity manifesting as diarrhoea or nose bleeds.
Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Orange Trees
An Andalusian Christian legend tells of Mary and Joseph, who were travelling with the infant Jesus, coming across an orange tree guarded by an eagle. Upon Mary’s request for one of its fruits, the eagle dozed off; she was then able to take three oranges—one for each member of the Holy Family.
The girl in “The Magic Orange Tree”, a tale from Haiti, is initially not so lucky. She finds three oranges on the table of the family home and devours them all because her stepmother rarely feeds her properly. When her stepmother arrives, she threatens the girl who then runs away and cries at her real mother’s grave all night.
The sun woke the girl up in the morning as usual, but when she got up, she noticed an orange seed falling from her skirt. As soon as it touched the ground, it started to sprout and grow taller. All of a sudden, the girl realized that she had magical powers over trees; by singing to this tree, she made it blossom and bear fruit! She quickly went home and showed her stepmother all of the oranges hanging on their branches. The greedy woman is not content with what she has and forces the girl to lead her to the tree. As the stepmother climbs up to reach the oranges, the girl sings a song that makes the tree grow high into the sky until it breaks.
This kills both her stepmother and the tree, but from its remains, a new seed sprouts. The second tree grows just like the first one and gives her plenty of oranges which she sells in the market; with this money, she lives happily ever after
The orange, similar to the sun in both Andalusian legend and Haitian story, shines its light on everyone equally and generously provides its fruits.
The next time you see an orange tree, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and reflect on its symbolism. Perhaps it will inspire you to be more optimistic, spontaneous, and good-natured.
Or maybe it will simply remind you of a loved one who gifted you with a piece of their vibrant culture.
Either way, the orange tree is sure to leave you feeling uplifted and refreshed.