The bitter orange tree was first used as a decoration in urban and rural gardens and later spread throughout the villages in Dubrovnik. Its juicy fruit and leaves have continued to play a major role in local gastronomy until the present day.
The beauty of Dubrovnik bitter orange is particularly emphasized during the autumn and winter, especially for holidays and festivities such as Christmas and New Year.
Bitter orange (Latin: Citrus aurantium) probably originated from Southeast Asia, most notably in China and India. During the 10th and 11th centuries, the bitter orange came to Europe where traders introduced the plant to several Mediterranean regions. Then 200 years later, it arrived in southern Italy, and made its way from Sicily to the Dubrovnik Republic where it was later on woven into Dubrovnik history and became as one of its main symbols . This is where the story of Dubrovnik bitter orange begins.
The beauty of orange trees was particularly emphasized during the autumn and winter, especially for holidays and festivities such as Christmas and New Year, when the evergreen treetops would bend under the weight of orange fruits which would conjure up the image and atmosphere of the Christmas and New Year's tree.
Interesting facts about bitter orange in Dubrovnik in the past and today:
- During Christmas time, children would decorate the tree with dried orange rings
- The signers of Christmas carols were always given an orange as a gift
- Decorative wreaths were made of artificial flowers and orange leaves, and were worn by children on their heads to take their First Communion vows.
- In the Dubrovnik area, orange blossoms were traditionally worn for engagement parties and weddings, and orange blossoms wreaths were hung on the wall.
- Oranges were always given as present to those held dear
- Of beloved friends, one always says that their soul smells like oranges.