The Legend of The Christmas Pickle

Christmas Pickle Ornaments
Pickle Ornaments. Image Credit: Steven Miller. Flickr. CC by 2.0.

Few traditions are more peculiar or more endearing than that of the Christmas Pickle.  The pickle is said to bring good fortune (or even an extra gift from Father Christmas) for its lucky finder on Christmas morning, and is a tradition now enjoyed in many households across the world.

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The origin of the Christmas Pickle is unclear.  In the U.S., it is said to be a custom brought over from Germany. But according to a YouGov.de survey from 2016, only 8% of Germans knew of the pickle story, or Weihnachtsgurke as it is supposedly called, and far fewer practised the tradition.

The current best guess is that the story was created by a marketeer in the late 19th century to help encourage sales of new glass blown vegetable decorations brought across to America from Northern Europe. 

The pickle ornament
The pickle ornament. Image Credit: Mira Mechtley. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

One rather far-fetched story traces the Christmas Pickle back to a fortunate escape in the American Civil War.  A starving captured German-American soldier regained his strength and determination for life after the guard took pity on him on Christmas Eve and gave him a pickle.  In gratitude, he hung a pickle on his Christmas tree the following year.  We’re not sure this story has any genuine origin, but it would make a heck of a Hallmark Christmas movie!

Regardless of how it began, the legend of the Christmas Pickle has now been around for well over 100 years.  And it is sufficiently well known to have sprouted a host of decorative gherkin-shaped ornaments in numerous countries around the world. 

Indeed pickle-producing town Berrien Springs in Michigan, U.S.A. was once nicknamed the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World by Pickle Packers International (trade group for the pickle industry) and held an annual Christmas Pickle Festival until the early 2000s! 

Christmas Pickles on sale in Philadelphia
Christmas Pickles on sale in Philadelphia. Image Credit: Jolly Festive

These days, the pickle is generally hidden on the tree ahead of Christmas Day and the finder on Christmas morning is the first recipient of a gift from under the tree.  We think that a game of ornament hide-and-seek sounds like the kind of family festive fun that Christmas should inspire regardless of its mysterious origins!

Child Looking for Pickle
Child searching for pickle

Join in the fun of the Christmas Pickle with your family this year.  Get your own pickle here and enjoy bringing a new tradition to life in your home.


Do you have any other unusual ornament traditions in your family?  We’d love to hear about them.

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