Story by Mandy Brazil, Associate Editor
Everyone should take the time to appreciate the role that agriculture plays in everyday life. However, it is just as important to appreciate the value of agriculture during times that are not so ordinary, such as the holiday season!
Not only does agriculture provide us with the delicious feasts, hot apple cider and warm fires to sit next to; it also has strong influences on some of our most treasured holiday traditions.
The following are some fun facts about holiday elements and agriculture. Just think how you can use these trivia bits at family dinners. I bet you will discovers things even dad doesn’t know!
Christmas Stockings – The majority of stockings bought today are made out of felt. Felt is made from the wool fibers of animals such as alpacas, llamas or sheep. A common method of “felting” is wetting the wool in a soapy solution until the fibers are compressed and matted in a dense form. No weaving required!
Wrapping Paper – It often is made of new or recovered wood pulp from softwood trees such as pine and spruce. Tissue paper is almost always made of recovered pulp. Did you know, the United States is one of the global leaders in the forestry industry and forest products account for 5% of the U.S. GDP?
Plum Pudding – California is the top producer of plums for the same reasons the state is so attractive to other fruit varieties and tourists – the weather! However, this actually does not relate to the topic of plum pudding. Why? Little known fact – traditional plum pudding does not actually contain plums! “In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other fruits.”
Eggnog – This drink tends to be hit or miss with people – they love it or hate it. I personally am not a huge fan of store-bought pre-made eggnog, but love homemade eggnog. The ingredients are pretty simple: eggs, sugar, milk, cream and nutmeg – whiskey or white rum are optional. The drink originated in upperclass Europe during 17th century social gatherings. During this time, eggs and milk were scarce so being able to provide such a valuable drink to guests was a sign of wealth.
Ugly Sweaters – Yes, by now most people are probably tired of the Facebook invites for ugly sweater parties. You just want to stuff that Goodwill-find back into storage until next year. Stick with me; this might bring about some appreciation for that itchy and funky-smelling wardrobe piece. Traditionally, sweaters are made from sheep wool. However, the wool is valued for more than just the fibers. Lanolin is an oil in wool that is used in soap, deodorant, hair gel and candle wax… to name a few.
Poinsettias – The gorgeous red decoration in the middle of the table is not really a flower. It’s actually a small, tropical tree variety. California is the top producer of this holiday icon with over 27 million pots sold annually.
Candy Canes – Rumor has it that before the invention of the modern pacifier, parents would give their children white sugar sticks to suck on. During the late 1600’s, a German choirmaster made cane shaped sugar sticks to hand out to children during Sunday services. The colors and design of the candy cane continued to become more elaborate. What about the delicious peppermint flavor? Well, turns out that this is an important part of California agriculture as well. Check out this article from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources on how new developments are being made in the mint crop sector.
I hope that everyone takes time to enjoy the holiday season and all of the wonderful traditions that it brings! I hope you also remember that agriculture plays an important role in the holiday magic!