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How the Christmas Pickle Tradition Got Started

A unique and curious holiday tradition, the Christmas pickle has woven itself into the fabric of Yuletide celebrations for numerous families. The pickle ornament is more than a festive glass ornament nestled among the tree’s twinkling lights; it carries a sense of mystery.

While often associated with German heritage, the origins of this quirky tradition remain shrouded in folklore, leading to varying accounts of how a pickle became a symbol of Christmas cheer.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to make your holiday special, 55 Old Fashioned Christmas Ideas and 21 Hygge Christmas Ideas to Warm Your Soul will help you on your journey.

How the Christmas Pickle Tradition Got Started - Photo of Christmas Pickle Ornament hanging from an Evergreen Branch
How the Christmas Pickle Tradition Got Started

As this festive custom finds its way into more homes, the pickle ornament becomes a cherished part of family gatherings.

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Here’s the Tradition of the Christmas Pickle:

Christmas Pickle Tree with Pickle Ornaments
Christmas Pickle Tree with Pickle Ornaments

There are several stories about the origins of the Christmas pickle. Initially, the pickle ornament was thought to be an old German tradition. It’s whispered that the pickle was the last ornament to be hung on the Christmas tree, hidden among the boughs and tinsel.

On Christmas morning, the first child to spot the glistening green ornament would be blessed with a good year of fortune and receive an extra gift for their keen eye.

It turns out that theory appears to be a myth. Most people in Germany have yet to hear of Christmas pickles for the tree.

Christmas Pickle Ornaments
Christmas Pickle Ornaments

There’s another story about an American Civil War soldier who, imprisoned and starving, begged a guard for one last pickle on Christmas Eve before he died. The guard, moved by compassion, granted his wish, and the pickle miraculously provided him the strength to live on.

The soldier, once freed, began the tradition of hanging a pickle on his Christmas tree.

Rumors also swirl about St. Nicholas saving two boys in a barrel of pickles.

The actual tradition probably began with a marketing campaign. In the 1880s, Woolworth stores started importing glass ornaments from Germany.

Some of the ornaments were in the shape of fruit and vegetables. Pickle ornaments were part of the group.

It is now believed that a salesperson created the Legend of the Christmas Pickle ornament to sell more ornaments. If this story is true, their campaign was successful.

Though historians have yet to be able to pinpoint a precise origin for the Christmas pickle tradition – a fact that serves only to enhance its allure – the pickle persists as an endearing tale.

These narratives weave a sense of enchantment to the tradition, inviting families to craft their own memories and inject a playful spirit into their holiday celebrations.

The Christmas pickle is a beautiful tradition that can be passed from generation to generation, making Christmas even more magical.

Christmas Pickle in Modern Celebrations

In today’s festive celebrations, the Christmas pickle ornament adorns many trees, creating a playful addition to the season’s jubilance. On Christmas Eve, an ornament in the shape of a pickle is hidden on the Christmas tree.

Because the tree is green, the pickle can be a little tough to find, blending into the branches.

The child that finds the Christmas pickle first receives a special reward or earns the honor of opening the first gift. You can have the gift be from you or Santa Claus.

For some families, the gift of finding the pickle on Christmas morning gives the finder good luck all year long.

How to Participate in the Pickle Tradition

  1. Choose Your Pickle Ornament: Start by selecting a Christmas pickle ornament that appeals to you. Options range from glass to plastic; pick one that suits your tree’s theme.
  2. Set the Stage: Tell your family about the new tradition. Share the folklore behind the Christmas pickle to spark interest and excitement.
  3. Organize the Search: Establish the rules for the pickle search. Decide who will participate and what the finder gains, be it a special treat or the honor of opening the first gift.
  4. The Christmas Morning Hunt: On Christmas morning, let the participants begin the search. Watch as they eagerly inspect the tree, looking for the hidden pickle among the boughs.
  5. Celebrate the Finder: Congratulate the lucky individual who discovers the pickle ornament. Reward them according to the rules you’ve set.
  6. Make it an Annual Tradition: Year after year, repeat this new custom.

Fun Reward & Gift Ideas for the Pickle Ornament Winner

  1. Choose the Christmas Carol: The winner gets to pick their favorite Christmas carol, and the entire family or group has to sing it together.
  2. Dessert Chef for the Day: The winner gets to be in charge of dessert on a day they decide, whether that means choosing a special treat or helping to bake and decorate cookies.
  3. Skip a Chore: The winner is exempt from one household chore of their choice on Christmas Day, and someone else has to do it for them.
  4. Personalized Ornament: The winner gets a personalized Christmas ornament with their name and the date as a keepsake of their victory.
  5. Storytelling Time: The winner gets a personalized Christmas ornament with their name and the date as a keepsake of their victory.
  6. Movie Night Choice: The winner gets to select the Christmas movie or holiday special that the family watches together that evening.
  7. Extra Stocking Stuffer: The winner receives an extra small stocking filled with surprise goodies just for them.
  8. Special Seat at the Table: The winner gets to choose their seat at the Christmas dinner table, whether it’s the head of the table or a special spot of their choice.
  9. Christmas Wish: The winner gets to make a special Christmas wish, and everyone in the family or group must do their best to make it come true.
  10. Outdoor Adventure: The winner selects an outdoor activity for the family, such as a winter hike, sledding, or a nature walk.

Christmas Pickle Gift Basket

The Christmas pickle makes a special gift for friends and family. It’s a great way to teach others about this fun tradition.

Why not create a special gift basket around this fun idea? You could add other things like:

One of my readers, Amanda, shared with me that she shares this tradition with her cat too. She bought her cat a catnip pickle toy! I thought it was a great idea.

The Christmas Pickle Ornament Tradition - Glass Jar of Pickles and Fresh Dill
The Christmas Pickle Ornament Tradition – Glass Jar of Homemade Pickles

Fun Facts about Pickles

  1. According to the Department of Agriculture, the average American eats 8 1/2 pounds of pickles per year. (Fun fact: I’m eating pickles right now as I write this article!)
  2. November 14th is National Pickle Day.
  3. Cleopatra believed pickles helped make her beautiful. She ate them regularly.
  4. Shakespeare coined the phrase “In a pickle” in 1611 in his play The Tempest.
  5. In Mississippi, they make Kool-Aid pickles. You take dill pickles and cut them in half. Soak them in strong Kool-Aid for a week in the refrigerator.

Are there any specific rules or variations to the Christmas pickle tradition?

While the basic idea of hiding a pickle ornament in the tree is consistent, some families have variations in how they play the game. For example, some families use multiple pickle ornaments, while others may assign different rewards for finding the pickle. There are no strict rules, so families can adapt the tradition to their liking.

What are the rewards or privileges associated with finding the Christmas pickle?

The rewards or privileges for finding the Christmas pickle can vary from family to family. Common rewards include receiving a small gift, getting to open the first present, or being named the “pickle king” or “pickle queen” for the day. It’s a lighthearted tradition, so the rewards are typically meant to add a sense of fun and excitement to the holiday celebration.

What kind of ornament is used for the Christmas pickle tradition?

The Christmas pickle ornament is typically a small, green, glass or plastic ornament shaped like a pickle. It’s often hidden among the other ornaments on the Christmas tree, making it a fun and challenging activity for family members to find.

We’ve reached the end of the Pickle Ornament for Christmas History. I hope you enjoyed it.

Let me know in the comments below if your family participates in this fun tradition.

Be sure to take a look at the Cozy Living Group. You’re not going to believe how amazing it is!

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Thanks for stopping by! I’m so happy you found us.

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Amelia

Friday 15th of December 2023

What a fun idea! I've been wanting to start a new tradition for my little family and I think this would be perfect. It's quirky, fun, and best of all cheap. Thanks for the inspo!

Amanda

Saturday 4th of December 2021

Super interesting! My mom has always hidden the Christmas pickle for the grandkids. She's visiting for Christmas and I can't wait to ask if she knows the real (likely) origin story! In a related note, I have bought my cats a pickle catnip toy and am excited to share the wacky tradition with them.

Kelly

Sunday 5th of December 2021

Hello Amanda!

I'm so glad your mom did this tradition with you. I love it! What a cute idea on catnip pickle for your cat. I'm going to swipe your idea and add it to the post! Kelly

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