There are some traditions that are just so, well, weird, that you wonder if you can really believe what you just heard. The Christmas Pickle tradition is one of those that made me wonder if I had really heard those two word combined together to form one phrase – like Santa Clause, Christmas Tree, Wrapped Presents, Naughty & Nice. Christmas Pickle???
My mother-in-law (who has a tree full of Hallmark ornaments) explained the simple tradition: a pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree and on Christmas morning the first person who finds it receives a special gift. Count me in! A race with an extra present. Sounds good to me!
But then I wondered, where DID this tradition come from. My mother-in-law said it was an old German tradition that her family did when she was younger. She then threw out a little bit of doubt that this was really a German tradition. The Germans have one awesome tradition that we like to celebrate – Oktoberfest. Did a drunk German put a pickle on a Christmas tree way back when? I had to find out!
My internet research indicated that this story is a Myth. Where are the Mythbuster guys when you really need them? The stories all point towards the nineteenth century. A poor German American found himself in prison in Andersonville, Georgia around the time frame of the Civil War. Starving, he begged a guard to help him on Christmas night. The guard gave him a pickle which gave him the strength to survive. Really? I little bit cucumber and a whole lot of vinegar? Oh, I digressed!
This man wrote to his family who lived in Germany and sung the praises of the pickle. Then the tradition (supposedly) began and they started hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree. The first person who found the pickle on Christmas morning was to be blessed with a year of good fortune. Now instead of good fortune we get a gag gift instead.
The roots of this story aside, the Christmas pickle is one extra fun tradition to add to your own family’s book of history. Before we had kids my mother-in-law would make us (grown adults) wait in a different room and call us in to the room with the tree one at a time. She had a stopwatch and timed how long it took each of us to find the pickle, which she returned to the same spot again and again. The person with the fastest time won the prize.
So now when you see a little green pickle hanging with the rest of the ornaments you now know more about it! And you might even pick one up to start your own tradition. You can order a Christmas Pickle from Amazon…or find one at a local retailer.
For another fun event to do this winter – consider Reindeer pancakes.
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