What Does A Pickle Have To Do With Christmas?

It doesn't smell or taste like an actual gherkin, but a pickle ornament can be found on plenty of Christmas trees in the US.

The only limit to Christmas tree decor is your imagination—but traditionally it’s an array of bows, baubles, angel figurines and tinsel. Far less common is the Christmas pickle, a glass ornament shaped like an actual pickled gherkin, and often hidden in the tree so that the first of the children to find it on Christmas morning receives a special present.

If you’ve never heard of this tradition, you’re far from alone.

The pickle ornament is largely found in some places in the US, where they claim it’s an old German tradition. Germans, however, had not heard of it until Americans told them about it, so to this day no one's entirely sure how the Christmas pickle tradition came to pass.

The Christmas pickle tradition presented as an old German tradition in the Germany pavillion at Epcot World Showcase, Walt Disney World.
PHOTO: Scott Smith, Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One theory goes that in the late 19th century F. W. Woolworth stores in the US started selling glass ornaments handcrafted in Germany; some of these ornaments were shaped like fruit and vegetables, including the pickle that somehow got surrounded in its own mythical ‘old German’ tradition.

Whatever the origins, pickle ornaments can indeed be found in some family collections in the US today. In the late 90s the village of Berrien Springs in Michigan even put its name on the map with an annual Christmas Pickle Festival, complete with pickle tastings, a pickle toss, and a parade orchestrated by Grand Dillmeister.

Header image: Robin Zebrowski, Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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