The Christmas Pickle

Back in the States as20131218_120234 I got older, people asked, since I had grown up in Germany, did we always have a “Christmas pickle” on the Christmas tree?  I was stumped.  I had never heard of it.  Never seen one. Over time, I learned it was an old German tradition, where the family hid a pickle-shaped ornament on the tree, and the child that first spotted the pickle (green ornament in a green tree…) got an extra little present.  Thought it seemed kind of…strange and creepy—I mean, who put a realistic food ornament on their Christmas tree that wasn’t a candy cane? Okay, maybe it could be kind of cute, but I had still never heard of it.  Over time, I’ve gotten used to the story, and pretty much added “and no, we never did the Christmas pickle thing” to any story about growing up in Germany—including the previous blog post, which originally had a sentence on that.

I realized I should probably include a vignette or link about the German Pickle Ornament, and went to find some reputable site explain the historic origins.

Guess what?  It’s a MYTH.  It’s not an “ancient custom.”  It’s NOT EVEN GERMAN.  Which would go far in explaining why we never learned it there.  I checked it out online, and generally it dates to the U.S., mid-to-late 1800s.  They think it’s an American Civil War era tale or possibly just an 1890s marketing scam used to sell Americans some weird German veggie-shaped glass ornaments that had been shipped to America for the first time. They say it’s BECOME an American tradition, but was probably never European in the first place.

How odd!!

2 thoughts on “The Christmas Pickle

  1. Sally, Bruce’s stepmom, gave each of the boys and their families a pickle ornament the first year she was in the family. It’s kind of cute.

  2. Rowan Worth says:

    That’s cool! And were you familiar with it, or did she have to explain it?

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