Apples for teachers? What's that all about!

Craftypups gifts for teachers collection

Where did the tradition of giving an “apple to teacher” come from? It’s still commonplace to give a teacher a small gift of appreciation at the end of term or the school year, even if apples have been superseded by gift cards, chocolate and other more modern treats.

Wooden or slate coaster - occupation - teacher

Northern European countries, including Sweden and Denmark, have given apples to teachers since the 18th century. It is likely that as people emigrated to the USA, they took apple trees with them, popularising the tradition from the 19th century onwards to make it the well known feature of many books and films today. But what are the theories around the origin of bringing an apple for the teacher?

  1. Symbolism In Greek mythology, apples were associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom, linking the fruit with knowledge and learning. Christian tradition states the apple eaten by Eve as the forbidden fruit, taken from the Tree of Knowledge
  2. Practicality The school year has always typically started in September, after the harvests have been taken in and the days are shorter for working on the land. Apples are in abundance at that time of year, and have the added benefit of keeping well in storage, making them an ideal gift for teachers, who could not farm themselves, so were often paid in food instead of money. On the US western frontier, there are records of teachers being housed and fed by families whose children went to school, and who even helped to maintain the schoolhouse!
  3. Nutrition Remember the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Apples have always been seen as a healthy nutritious snack, so giving an apple to their teacher could be a way for students to demonstrate care for their wellbeing.
  4. Marketing Some types of apples were mostly used for making cider prior to prohibition in 1920’s USA, and the growers were hit hard by the ban on alcohol. A marketing drive to rebrand them as healthy helped to save the livelihood of the farmers, and cemented the apple's reputation as a nutritious food.

Ceramic mug - white and black - teacher gift

Of course, there can always be ulterior motives for giving a gift to a teacher as well as genuine affection and appreciation … perhaps a student might hope for preferential treatment compared to others, or even higher marks!

Wooden keyring - end of term - no. 1 teacher

Whatever the reason for giving a teacher a token of appreciation, they would love one of our unusual and practical gifts. Choose one of our coasters, keyrings or mugs, or a gift card to let them choose their own gift!