The Christmas Pickle

One day when I was in elementary school, maybe 6th grade or so, I was over at my friend’s house playing. It was Christmas time and I noticed a weird ornament on her tree. It was a pickle.

But what kind of Christmas tree ornament is a vegetable preserved in vinegar? 

I’ve seen my fair share of weird ornaments as my tree had toys I got in happy meals and the crafts that I made at school. I put on the tree because I thought they were cute….and I still do. If it could be hung on a tree, it was an ornament. As a matter of fact, my tree currently has Worf action figure from Star Trek: The Next Generation on it.

The Christmas pickle is a Christmas tradition in the United States. A pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree for someone to find. It’s believe that the person who finds the pickle will receive a reward or good fortune for the following year.

Christmas Pickle Origins

There are a couple of stories about the origin of the Christmas pickle tradition.

  1. The tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany. It’s suggested that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations that came over from Germany.
  2. Another story takes us to the Civil War. The Bavarian-born soldier John C. Lower from Pennsylvania was captured in early 1864 and taken to the prison camp. Still imprisoned on Christmas Eve, he begged a guard for a pickle because he was starving. The guard provided the pickle which Lower later credited for saving his life. After returning to his family, he began a tradition of hiding a pickle on their Christmas tree each year.

Whichever story is true, it’s a unique tradition and starts an interesting conversation of “what’s that?” or “why is there a pickle in your tree?”.

Does your Christmas tree have a pickle in it or some other ornament that has a tradition behind it? How did this tradition start in your family? Tell us about it in the comments.