The Origin of Fruitcake


(Originally published as "A Fruity Booty: A Holiday Season Tale" in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph on December 25th, 1993)

Hundreds of years ago in the thick forests of Bavaria, there lived a young, idealistic couple, ready to set forth into the world.  They refused to make their house from the trees growing in the forest, for even the thought of cutting them down filled their hearts with grief and sadness.  Rather, they chose to let the trees live, being the idealistic and environmentally conscious couple they were, and decided to make their house out of fruitcake.  As one can imagine, the villagers jeered at their naiveté.  Each day the villagers gathered around and laughed as they watched the young couple piece their house together.  To their surprise, it turned out to be an excellent home:  it was hardy, kept the warmth inside and the chill winds out, and happened to be very energy-efficient.  The villagers scoffed at the handiwork and wondered how long it would last.  Weeks, months, then years passed by, and the fruitcake house stood as strong and as proud as ever.

It was a few weeks before Christmas when a furious blizzard cut the village off from larger towns nearby.  Small amounts of grain and supplies were stored away for minor emergencies, but no one was prepared for a storm of this magnitude.  The people endured a cold, bleary existence as they watched their food supplies dwindle to nothing.

The couple was sick with compassion.  As the wife watched her husband pluck a walnut from one of the fruity bricks in the wall and nibble on it, a moment of brilliance overcame her.

“Why don’t we take apart our house and send each person a brick of fruitcake!”  Her husband was overjoyed with the idea, and they immediately set forth to the task, quickly reducing their charming home into a haphazard pile of fruitcake bricks and rubble.  On Christmas Eve, they trudged through the snow and wind and placed a fruitcake at every doorstep.  They stayed with the young woman’s reluctant mother-in-law for a while, who couldn’t understand what had possessed them to build a house out of fruitcake in the first place.

On Christmas day, hungry little boys and girls eager to play outside in the snow opened their doors to find the cake sitting on their doorstep.  Although it took a while for the villagers to recognize it as an edible substance, and even longer to bite into it, the cakes saved the town from starvation.  In fact, it was too much, and many villagers used what they didn’t finish as doorstops and fruitcake logs for toasty fires.  The snow eventually melted and the villagers were able to replenish their supplies.  They gratefully helped the couple rebuild their fruitcake home.

The villagers continued to call them “a coupla’ nutty fruitcakes,” but they never forgot their compassion and selflessness.  To this day, the tradition of sending out fruitcake to friends and relatives is a symbol of giving, sharing, of warmth and compassion, and of the entire holiday spirit.