"Why do you always give us oranges and nuts in our stockings?" Dawn asked.
"What, honey?" Joyce looked up from her own stocking and saw her younger daughter looking dubiously at her orange.
"I said, why do you always give us oranges and nuts in our stockings?"
"Because I always got them in mine," she replied easily. "Back then it was quite the treat."
"Little House on the Prarie did that too," Buffy spoke up suddenly, sounding almost surprised at herself. "I remember reading that – they got oranges at Christmas and it was, like, a huge deal."
Joyce nodded and smiled reminiscently. "I remember reading that with you." Their eyes locked for a moment, in memory.
"But why?" Dawn demanded.
"Because once upon a time, Santa Clause was Saint Nicholas. And before he died and was canonized , he was Bishop Nicholas."
Joyce sensed a 'so' coming, but she continued before Dawn could prompt her. "The story goes that he was helping a poor man who’s daughters could not afford a dowry to get married. He snuck in at night and found their stockings hung by the fire and placed a sack of gold into each sock."
Buffy looked strangely thoughtful, as she did some times, but before Joyce could ask, Dawn huffed. "But what does that have to do with oranges?" she whined.
"Well, during hard times, the bag of gold changed to fruit of gold, or oranges."
"Huh," Buffy said. She began to peel her orange as Dawn resumed digging through her stocking. Smiling gently, Joyce resumed her own stocking dig.
"Hey Giles, why do people put oranges in stockings at Christmas?" They were standing in the kitchen a little later, Giles washing while Buffy dried.
"What? Oh, uh, well, back in older times, uh, people would put citrus fruit around fireplace openings to repel frost sprites, who would sneak in and feed on the pets that were laying by the fire." Giles reached for his glasses, but seemed to notice the soapy water on his hand at the last second. "Uh, e- eventually the sprites largely died out, and the tradition has somewhat, uh, mutated and continued."
Buffy sighed and looked back at the sink. "I thought it would be something like that."