Christmas Pickles sound like something from Rick and Morty. But I’m not referring to the Pickle Rick episode of the show. I’m talking about the strange tradition where families hang a pickle-shaped ornament on their tree.
Why a Pickle?
This is where the mystery begins. The Americans point at the Germans. Supposedly Woolworth stores were selling imported German ornaments in the 1880s. Many of these were fruit and veggie shaped!
“Around the same time it was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present.”Why Christmas
This, however, is a myth. I just asked my German friend if there’s a pickle in her Christmas tree. She was as amused as she was confused. In other words, there’s a chance that this was never a German tradition. Similarly, it is a possibility that it was lost a long time ago.
A soldier who was starving in prison wanted one last pickle before he died. This was during the American Civil War and the soldier was born in Bavaria. Ha! Another link to Germany!
“The guard took pity on him and gave a pickle to him. The pickle gave him the mental and physical strength to live on!”Why Christmas
Pickles are magical so this sounds pretty logical to me. But it doesn’t really explain how this soldier, who we assume survived because of the pickle, spread this bizzare tradition.
The final theory features old St. Nicholas. This medieval tale is about two Spanish boys traveling home for the holidays. They stopped in an inn for the night, and I’ll have to quote the next part because it’s crazy.
“The evil innkeeper, killed the boys and put them in a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn, and found the boys in the barrel and miraculously bought them back to life!”Why Christmas
Today, pickles are popular in the USA. You can find fried pickles at fairs for as much as $8 if you are in NYC. I am currently shopping for my very own Christmas pickle ornament and it looks like they are very easy to find.
Berrien Springs in Southwest Michigan is home to a lot of German immigrants. They love to celebrate pickles and do so twice a year. Once in July and once in December for Christmas.
“The Berrien County Historical Association and 1839 Courthouse Museum at 313 N. Cass Street in Berrien Springs sells pickle ornaments in their gift shop. During the winter months the gift shop also sells the popular chocolate covered pickle. It’s all part of a tradition the Pickle Festival people hope to carry on.”Herald Palladium
You can find out more about the events in Barrien Springs on their website. I don’t know when, but you can expect to see me at one of their pickle festivals one day!