Where did the tradition of giving your teacher an apple come from?
As this is teacher appreciation week in the US, let’s dive into the history surrounding this practice., dear friends.
From a practical standpoint, teachers have generally not had a high income. As such, sometimes (more frequently in remote or rural communities), educators were provided food by the community. Often, children brought spare produce from their family’s farms, orchards, or other sustenance-producing locales as both a thank you to and added benefit for said instructors.
Also, the apple has a long history of being associated with knowledge, inspiration, and power. Biblically, the apple has been associated with potentially destructive knowledge and independent thought (the Tree o Knowledge of Good and Evil), though theological historians now believe any textual mention of an “apple” was in reference to the pomegranate, which was grown in much higher prevalence and was revered in the region (1). Symbolically, in providing one’s instructor with a source of knowledge and inspiration, a student is ensuring that their educational experience will continue to be fruitful.
The tradition of bringing sustenance to one’s advisers and teachers is long-standing. Particular to the apple, it seems that original documentation of the tradition dates to 1700s, Denmark and Sweden, when poor families would pay for their children’s education with baskets of apples (2).
I would like to point out here that as technology has advanced and expanded over the past four decades, there is a disproportionate amount of computer-related content when conducting searches for “apples and education.’’ Thankfully, Google Scholar does rather a good job of filtering out results for Apple computers, though doesn't add much to thr current botanical discussion. As much as I appreciate technological advancement, computers are a bit crunchy when one tries to eat them.
Previously, I detailed more information regarding apple lore and history in Apples of Mabon, should you like to check that out.
I wish you all an amazing weekend and to any teachers reading, thank you for all that you do.
Till next time,