anne mikolay 2012 120When little, pink piggy figures began popping up around Middletown alongside inflatable Christmas lawn ornaments and lighted reindeer, I took an instant dislike to the seasonal bovines. What, I wondered, did a pig have to do with Christmas? Did the donkeys in the manger invite swine to see the Christ Child? Did I miss the Christmas carol about the lost pig in search of the true meaning of Christmas? Did Grandma get run over by a wild boar rather than a reindeer? What on earth did a pink pig have to do with Christmas?

Finally, I have solved the mystery! The answer, featured in countless Christmas catalogs, was surprisingly obvious. If I am correct, the pink pig lawn ornament represents the Saratoga Springs peppermint pig candy.

While flipping through a catalog, I saw “The Peppermint Pig” for sale. It even has a name: Noel (Holly or Clarence, depending on size). Noel is a 5 ½ inches long, 8 ounce peppermint candy pig (Clarence is a whopping pound of peppermint with a whopping price tag of $19.95, while 3 ½ inch baby Holly, marketed as a perfect stocking stuffer, is only $6.50). Apparently, the peppermint pig, an unusual holiday tradition in the late 19th century, is enjoying renewal on dining tables (and lawns) everywhere.

Based upon the pig as a Victorian symbol of prosperity, the peppermint pig has its roots in Saratoga Springs, New York, a thriving resort community in 1880 when a local resident first created the pigs using peppermint oil. Though the pigs' popularity declined during the sugar rationing of World War II, the confection enjoyed resurgence some forty years later, thanks to Mike Fitzgerald, proprietor of Saratoga Sweets.  Traditionally, the peppermint pig is the very last part of a Christmas dinner when the head of the household places the pig in its velveteen pouch and whacks it with a mallet. The pig is then passed around the dinner table as each person breaks a piece with the hammer and shares a bit of personal good fortune and wishes for prosperity in the New Year.

Saratoga Sweets (saratogasweets.com) sells Noel, Holly, and Clarence, complete with velveteen pouch and hammer, as well as plush pink pigs, pink pig totes and hats, Pigsy dust for peppermint hot cocoa, chocolate mud sauce for ice cream, and peppermint poop for those with a sense of humor. They do not, however, sell pink piggy Christmas lawn ornaments.

Who knew those irritating (still don't like them!) piggies in Santa suits alongside inflatables and glowing reindeer were actually a Victorian Christmas legend? I have no idea who came up with the idea of translating cute, pink candy pigs into lighted, questionable lawn décor. Really, I wish they hadn't! I wouldn't mind finding a wee Holly pig in my Christmas stocking...but I don't want a pink pig on my lawn.