Is there a pickle on your Christmas tree? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’ve probably never heard of the German pickle ornament tradition. Let me fill you in.
German legend has it that pickles bring good luck. Germans hide a pickle ornament somewhere on their Christmas trees.
On Christmas morning, the first child to locate the pickle ornament (die Weihnachtsgurke) gets a small reward, left by Saint Nicholas.
Is the German Pickle a Myth?
Before you tuck this charming tradition into your mind, wait just a minute. It may not be true. In fact, apparently many Germans were asked about it, and none had ever heard of the tradition. The deniers point out problems with the myth; one being that in Germany, St. Nicholas visits on December 5 or 6, not Christmas Eve.They also mention that German kids open Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas morning.
My research also suggested that the tradition had been perpetuated online (as many myths are). I’m not buying the idea that it originated there, though, because I heard about the legend prior to my online days.
Here is my pickle ornament on my Christmas tree. I remember getting it; it would have been in the early 1990s. The local newspaper used to offer a daily coupon for something free, somewhere in town. Once, a local garden/home decor shop that I loved (and which has, sadly, closed) offered a free German pickle ornament, and I drove out to get mine. I think my first time discovering the wonderful world of the internet was at a teacher workshop several years later, in 1995 or 1996.
So, if the German pickle ornament tradition is a myth, it happened before the days of the internet. I have 2 German friends who I write to each year at Christmas. I just mailed their cards yesterday, and now I’m wishing I’d asked them about pickle ornaments.
The top two photos in the post show impressive entire trees full of pickle ornaments — at Epcot’s German Pavilion in Disney World. Maybe someone should inform Disney that the whole pickle thing is a myth??
How about you? Any Germans out there who can answer the burning question: is the legend of the German pickle ornament a fraud?
**Update: a friend who grew up in Germany has never heard of it. He researched it on German Google and it says that the tradition is strictly American. In 1909 there was a sales catalog from a bicycle plant that offered a pickle ornament for sale. So maybe it was around somewhere at some point, but definitely nothing cultural or country-wide.