CHARLOTTE, NC: Christmas holiday traditions have a wide assortment of history ranging from universal customs to favorite family rituals. Oddly enough, one that has recently gained in popularity is the “Christmas pickle.”
You read that correctly; the Christmas pickle. Rumor has it that the custom began in Germany, while others give Russia credit for its origin.
The story of the Christmas Pickle
It is said that Germany became part of the Christmas pickle story, or in its native language Weihnachtsgurke, because it was brought to the United States by German immigrants.
It’s been said the poverty-stricken people of 19th-century Spreewald, were too poor to have actual ornaments, so they hung pickles instead. According to the tradition, the Christmas pickle is the last ornament placed on a tree and is buried deep within the branches.
The first child to discover the pickle receives a special prize for finding it.
One explanation about the origin of the tale says a dying prisoner during the Civil War begged his guard for a pickle before he expired.
The compassionate guard gave the soldier a pickle, and somehow, he miraculously survived.
A less holiday happy version of the Christmas Pickle legend
A more gruesome version of the legend claims that two young boys from Spain stopped at a roadside inn one day while traveling home. The evil innkeeper supposedly had a penchant for killing young boys, dismembering them and placing them in a pickle barrel.
As was his habit, the innkeeper went about his dastardly task, killing his two young patrons and dunking them into the brine.
On that particular night, however, St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn, discovered the bodies and brought them back to life.
In honor of the occasion, supposedly the pickle then became part of Christmas tree decorations.
The trouble with the legend is that a survey taken in 2016 showed that most Germans never heard of the tradition. Over 90 percent of German families had no clue regarding Christmas pickles or what they represent.
Never let a good myth go to waste
Do not despair, however. There was no need to waste a perfectly good holiday myth. The story has its roots at the turn of
the 20th century. In the 1890s, the popular retailer Woolworths began importing Christmas ornaments from Germany. Among the Old World decorations, some were in the shape of a pickle. The Woolworth’s marketing department assumed the pickle ornaments must have some unusual significance.
Over the next century, the story evolved. Pickles, being green in color like the branches of the Christmas tree, can be hidden from view on the tree. The child with a keen sense of observation who discovered the “hidden” ornament would have a year of good luck and be rewarded with a special Christmas prize.
The Lauscha Glass Center, a prominent German ornament manufacturer, began creating pickle ornaments in the mid-1990s after one of its employee visited Michigan and saw a Christmas pickle hanging on a tree.
So take your pick, or perhaps we should say “take your pickle,” because whether the story has its roots in Germany, some obscure horrendous “grim” fairy tale or elsewhere, the latest Christmas fad appears to have a holiday future.
Now you, too, can be the first in your neighborhood to embrace the newest Christmas tradition. After all if you get into the spirit of the “Christmas gherkin” there will never be a “dill” moment.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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Lead Image: Christbaumschmuck der Firma Inge-Glas, Neustadt bei Coburg, Deutschland, CCO Wikimedia – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Weihnachts_Gurke.jpg