The Christmas Pickle Tradition

In what appears to be a tradition that originated from Bavarian roots, either in Germany, or from American-Germans, the Christmas pickle or Christmas Gerkin is one that is popular with kids and adults a like. I mean what better way to say Happy Holidays than to convey it with a hidden pickle.

The Christmas pickle is not really a pickle at all. It is a pickle-shaped glass ornament that is the last one hung and hidden on the tree on Christmas Eve. The first child to find the Christmas pickle gets an extra gift from Saint Nicholas.

The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year. Personally, I’d like a prezzie, but hey good luck is valuable too.

Although the orgins of this tradition are murky, one tale tells the story of a soldier who fought in the American Civil War, John Lower (Hans Lauer?), born in Bavaria in 1842, wrote to tell about a family story that had to do with a Christmas pickle. According to family lore, “John Lower was captured and sent to prison in Andersonville, Georgia. …In poor health and starving, he begged a guard for just one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and found a pickle for John Lower. According to family legend, John said that the pickle—by the grace of God—gave him the mental and physical strength to live on. Once he was reunited with his family he began a tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree. The first person who found the pickle on Christmas morning would be blessed with a year of good fortune.”

The Civil War ended in 1865, but glass Christmas tree ornaments did not become popular in the U.S. until around 1880, when F.W. Woolworth began importing them from Germany.

Has the popularity of the supposedly German legend in America brought it to Germany, or was it really the other way around?

No one really knows, but honestly, who doesn’t like pickles?

Bring the Christmas Pickle Tradition to your household!


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