Hang a … shiny … pickle … on the highest branch? The Christmas pickle is supposedly a classic German tradition. But it may not be as traditional, or German, as you might expect.
Legend has it that, when Germans decorate their Christmas tree, the last ornament to hang from it is a pickle.
Usually made of glossy or matte green glass instead of cucumbers, the Christmas pickle is much more than a decoration.
At Christmas Event, the first child to find the pickle hidden among the branches of the tree is said to have good luck for the coming year, as well as an extra gift.
If he asks someone from the American Midwest, chances are he can tell you all about this German holiday custom. Germans, on the other hand, will have no idea what you are talking about.
In December 2016, a YouGov poll found that only 7% of Germans had ever heard of the ‘Weihnachtsgurke’. Also, only 6%-7% of Germans with children who know about the Christmas pickle practice the tradition.
Obviously, you can certainly be forgiven for believing that Christmas pickles come from Germany, as Germans certainly love their pickles.
Also, many of the best holiday traditions such as Christmas trees, a host of carols, bauble wreaths, and Christmas markets have their roots in German customs.
Although no one is completely sure where the Weihnachtsgurke originates from, with several German newspapers even publishing explanatory articles for the baffled German public, whoever brought it to the US has likely taken advantage of the popularity of these German Christmas traditions by market pickles. Ornaments for American consumers.
On the packaging of many pickle ornaments, you can find an explanation of how to carry out the ‘time-honored German tradition’, emphasizing that it is an ‘Old World custom’.
Glass German Christmas Ornaments only really began to be produced in the late 1800s, with a wide range of shapes, including fruits and vegetables, being sold in stores.
Most likely, the Christmas pickle tradition is just a clever marketing plan from an American retailer to help swap out a load of leftover pickle decorations.
But there are a number of myths that explain the meaning of the Christmas pickle.
One story tells that a German-American soldier captured in the civil war mostly became seriously ill & asked for a pickle as his last food. After the eating, he somehow regained his health and from then on he always hung a pickle on his tree every year.
According to another legend, Saint Nicholas (the original saint, rather than the jolly fat elf fan) revealed that a grocer had murdered three children and hidden them in a barrel of pickles.
Saint Nicholas prayed for the children and his faith miraculously brought them back to life. The pickle has since supposedly been associated with St. Nick, and consequently with Christmas.
Ironically, the Christmas pickle has crossed the pond and recently started to gain popularity in Germany.
Take a closer look the next time you’re at a Christmas market or store; today you can find pickle decorations all over the Bundesrepublik in all the styles and sizes you could want.
Tree decorations (Baumschmuck):
The tree is decorated (no later than Christmas Eve) with candles, ornaments, ornaments and tinsel. In the US, pickle-shaped ornaments can be found for sale that claims to be “an old tradition from Germany.” Legend has it that whoever sees the pickle among the branches receives an additional gift. While many Christmas shops have caught on to the trend and sell such decorations in Germany, most Germans will not recognize the custom.