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SARATOGA: Candy pigs ring in the new year with a crack

So why a pig rather than a horse, the animal Saratoga is most famous for?

A pig, he said, is a sign of prosperity. Most farm animals have a use -- the horse pulls the plow and the cow gives milk -- but the pig just hangs out and eats. By passing on a pig, you are wishing someone enough success to have a freeloader on the farm.

"That and short, little legs are easier to make than long, skinny legs," he added.

He said the Peppermint Pig is one of the oldest U.S. holiday traditions, since most of our holiday symbols hail from Europe. Saratoga Sweets is the only spot on the planet that makes Peppermint Pigs, and the same wired world it works to keep at bay is utilized to ship the pigs across the nation. But the store is still packed around this time of year.

"I got mine yesterday," said customer Jane Martin who pulled up to the shop on Route 9 as it was closing. "We get one every year. It is a great story and a big part of our Christmas holiday tradition for so many years."

"We had one every year as I was growing up and there are so many happy memories," said Saratoga Sweets General Manager Dona Cuva. "And now my two boys still love to take a 'whack at the pig,' and we will do it again this year. "I think my dad was more excited when I started cooking pigs here than he was when I got my first teaching job."

Fitzgerald said he has a lot of fun with his business, offering free samples of candy at his shop that features a chocolate fountain customers can dip complimentary treats like strawberries and marshmallows into. However, he takes the Peppermint Pig tradition he revived, and is now steward too, seriously. And he is particularly loyal to his Saratoga County customers.

"On Christmas Eve, after I lock up and go shopping, I always leave a few pigs in the box outside just in case someone did not get one," he said. "After we break our pig, I like to think if you open the door and listen hard enough, you can hear pigs breaking all across the neighborhood.

"My hats off to the guys who came up with the notion some 120 years ago and I am honored to be able to bring it back."

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