The Christmas Pickle: The Search for the Truth

We all have Christmas traditions we like to stick to around the holidays, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “where these customs began?”

By:  Kathy

Christmas Eve, 29 years ago there was a soft knock on the front door. I opened the door to the beaming face of the amazing woman that cared for me during my pregnancies and delivered my first baby 5 months earlier. My CNM had a small, beautifully wrapped box in her hands. After exchanging hugs, she explained that she had a long-standing family tradition that she wanted to share with our newly formed family. Enter the Christmas Pickle and the mystery of its origin.

What is the Christmas Pickle tradition?

The Christmas pickle is the last ornament to be hung on the tree, hidden in its branches. On Christmas morning, the first person to find the pickle either gets to open the first gift or gets a special treat. It’s also believed that the person who finds the green treasure will be granted a year of good luck.

Where did the Christmas Pickle story come from?

Many people believe the Christmas pickle is a tradition that originated in Germany. There is even a German name for the Christmas pickle, Weihnachtsgurke. While Germans do love their traditions, when asked about the Christmas Pickle, most are unaware of the tradition.

One story alleges that during the Civil War, a captured and starving German-American soldier asked a sympathetic guard for a pickle. The pickle provided enough nourishment and he miraculously survived. The soldier hung a pickle on his Christmas tree the following year.

Another story tells the gruesome tale of two boys who were killed by an evil innkeeper and placed in a pickle barrel. Thankfully, St. Nick found the boys and brought them back to life.

A third explanation for the tradition seems most plausible. In the 1880s, the F.W. Woolworth Company began importing German glass ornaments that were shaped like fruit, nuts, and pickles. It’s thought that the pickle ornaments weren’t selling fast enough, so a creative salesman came up with the German tradition story to sell more.

Regardless of the true origin of the Christmas pickle, I smile every year when I open the box and remember the knock on our front door and the smiling face that greeted me with a small, beautifully wrapped family tradition.