The PR campaign for apples has had its ups and downs. Snow White ran into some trouble after biting into a particularly sour one. And during medieval times in Western Europe, apples could symbolize sin, largely thanks to Adam and Eve’s biblical tale. But this has sort of shifted since. Now an apple a day can keep the doctor away. An apple with peanut butter has become a universally-loved snack. And the red apple became a quintessential gift of appreciation for teachers and educators everywhere.
But what does teaching have to do with apples, anyway?
There are a few theories. One is that the story of Adam and Eve made the apple into a symbol not only of sin, but of knowledge and education. So people began gifting their favorite educators with apples as a symbolic gesture. Another theory looks back to patterns of formal education in the United States along the frontier of the Old West.
Schoolhouses were popping up in budding American small towns where, according to Smithsonian’s recount of a PBS special titled “Frontier House, Frontier Life,” teachers relied on their neighbors for food and shelter. The families whose children attended schools would house and feed them.
Since school started in the fall, it is thought that farm families had more apples to spare than other foods. Peak apple season starts in September. Hence, they were often gifts. And while teachers no longer rely on their students for food, the tradition stands.
And the fruit has been keeping our educators healthy ever since — with all their health benefits, apples really can keep the doctor away!