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Though as a society we’re prone to linking specific food with specific holidays, we don’t often sit down and ask ourselves why. Yes, hot dogs are synonymous with the fourth of July, and yes, candy is tied to Halloween (no surprises there). But, strangely, nuts have always been linked to the fall and winter holidays, and the reasons why are actually quite interesting.
Harvest Time for Nuts
Most nuts are harvested from August to October, which means they will get to your dinner table pretty soon after. Though most people don’t think of nuts as being in or out of season like fruits or vegetables, they have the same restrictions. This means you’re likely to get the freshest nuts—you guessed it—around the late fall and early winter season. This is just one of the reasons you’re likely to see more of them for sale around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Christmas Traditions Involving Nuts
Human consumption of nuts dates far back past many of our other food traditions. And, as with many other aspects of the holiday, traditions are important during Christmastime. People often eat nuts because the food that used to be consumed during this time of the year was nut heavy.
Mince pies, for example, were a common medieval food that was traditionally baked on Christmas Eve. Inside it was usually chopped beef, fruit, spices, and nuts. In addition, nuts were one of the common treats young children would be likely to find in their stockings along with fruit and wooden toys.
The Religious Significance of Nuts
Though most people whether religious or secular eat nuts during the holiday season, there is a religious significance to the eating of nuts that has been passed down over the years. The shell, skin, and kernel are sometimes thought to represent the trinity, which, in some countries like Italy, is believed to bring good luck to the one who eats nuts during this time of the year. Nuts have also been tied to the body of Christ and to the miracle of his birth, which is the religious reason why many people celebrate Christmas.
The Scientific Significance of Nuts
People also used to eat nuts often in the winter months because they provided them with much-needed nutrients. People who lived in cold weather could roast nuts during the bleakest times of the winter, when meat was scarce, and still gain the protein and fat they needed to survive.