Do you know the history behind the Christmas pickle? Join us as we explore the untold story of the Christmas pickle tradition!
The Christmas Pickle Tradition
For the pickle on the Christmas tree tradition, parents sneak out of bed on Christmas Eve to hide the Christmas pickle among the maze of ornaments and lights already on the tree. The greenish color of the ornament usually disguises itself well in the Christmas tree, making it harder to find.
On Christmas morning, all the children in the house scramble out of bed to be the first one to find the pickle-shaped ornament in the tree. Of course, the first child to find the Christmas pickle receives an extra present for finding the prized ornament.
Some versions of the tradition say the one to find the Christmas pickle ornament will have good luck throughout the year. Rather than an additional present, the winner might also get to open their presents first!
The German Pickle Ornaments Story
For many years, Christmas enthusiasts have believed that the pickle ornament tradition was passed down through generations upon generations from Old World Germany. Of course, the Christmas pickle is not an actual edible pickle, but, instead, a pickle-shaped ornament that is hidden deep inside the branches of a family’s Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
Oddly enough, the pickle ornaments story most likely began in America. Importing Christmas decorations to America started in the late 1800s, and it’s thought that when glass ornaments were brought into the country from around the world, the story was born. Some people in Germany celebrate the Christmas pickle ornament tradition today, after the celebration had become popular in the United States.
The Andersonville Pickle Ornaments Story
One theory regarding the Christmas Pickle tradition attributes the origin to a Civil War soldier named John Lower.
As the pickle ornament tradition story goes, after being captured during the Civil War and sent to a prison in Andersonville, Georgia, John’s health began to diminish. As he lay there starving and near death, he begged the prison guard for one last pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and supplied him with a pickle to eat. This pickle gave him the strength to live on!
After John Lower returned to his family, he began hiding a pickle in the family Christmas tree to bring good fortune and luck to the person who was lucky enough to find it Christmas morning!
The United States didn’t begin importing glass ornaments, such as a German pickle, until 15-20 years after the Civil War ended. Instead, the pickle ornament tradition seems to have originated after the Reconstruction era.
Another theory is that an importer of glass ornaments, the F.W. Woolworth Company, either came up with the story themselves or circulated the story to help promote buying ornaments. Many glass ornaments are made to resemble food and the company would have been motivated to encourage Americans to purchase these ornaments for the first time.
My Christmas Pickle Tradition
Every holiday season my Christmas tree and house are decked out from top to bottom in glistening lights, personalized ornaments, and seasonal decorations. Among all the sparkling and shiny ornaments and lights, hangs my traditional glass pickle.
Every year on Christmas Eve, when my children were little, I would sneak down my stairs and hide my glass pickle ornament within our Christmas tree. Since the glass pickle ornament was dark green in color, it blended right into our fresh evergreen making it harder for my children to find. I would then wrap up an extra present, using special wrapping paper to symbolize the gift one of my children would receive for finding the Christmas pickle. The present was then placed under the tree among the rest of the gifts.
On Christmas morning, my children would come running down the stairs, eager for their chance to find the glass pickle ornament. Each one of my children would then inspect the tree in search of this famous Christmas pickle. The first one to find the pickle ornament was granted the privilege of unwrapping the special gift from under the tree.
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