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The Tradition of The Christmas Pickle Ornament

Does your family have a Christmas Pickle Ornament?

The story goes that once the children have nestled all snug in their beds on Christmas Eve, the parents move the shiny pickle ornament to a new spot on the tree. Since the pickle is green, it’s fairly hard to spot among the evergreen branches and the tradition is that the child who finds it first on Christmas morning gets to be the first to open a present.

It’s known as Weihnachtsgurke. And the story also goes that it’s a very old German tradition that’s been passed down through the years. But that part of the story appears to be not totally reliable. See, in a YouGov poll, less than 10% of Germans said they’d ever even heard of the Christmas Pickle legend!

The tradition is popular in the American Midwest, particularly in the town of Berrien Springs, Michigan which is the self-proclaimed “Christmas Pickle Capital of the World.” (There’s even a Christmas Pickle Festival. Really.) So where did it come from?

Well, it appears it was really all just a successful marketing scheme. In the 1880s, Woolworth stores started selling glass fruit and vegetable ornaments imported from Germany. (Including the shiny green pickle.) Shortly after that, “German Pickle Ornaments” were sold along with a written snippet of the ornament’s tradition, so it looks like it was just a clever yarn spun by an ambitious salesman.

While the German Christmas Pickle might not really be a German after all, it has certainly become a mainstay in many homes across America. Christmas is largely about tradition, and no matter its origins, the tradition of the Christmas Pickle Ornament is sure a fun one to keep alive.

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