The Christmas Tree Pickle, Explained

November 21, 2022

Christmas Pickle

Christmas is coming, boys and girls! The time of snowy days, Christmas lights, and hot beverages is getting closer by the day. Who’s not happy to see their advent calendars approaching the most wonderful time of the year?

That’s right, no one. Everyone loves a good Christmas dinner with the whole family getting together wearing one of thesesweaters. Aren’t they hilarious?

But did you know that every household has its own traditions and styles of clothing?

It seems like it’s time for us to review some magical (yet strange) Christmas traditions that many American households celebrate!

In today’s episode of “The best American Christmas traditions,” we have The Christmas Pickle, a special tradition many of you haven’t even heard of yet.

What Is the Christmas Pickle Tradition Anyway?

In a nutshell, theChristmas pickle is a tree ornament made from blown glass. It has a dark color and is often camouflaged by the Christmas tree.

The tradition is, in fact, a game in which you must hide the Christmas pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. That’s usually what parents do. Or do we need to say what Santa Claus would do?

Then, on Christmas morning, the first kid who finds the pickle is rewarded. Some families let the pickle-finder open their presents first. Others prepare a special gift for the one who finds the pickle ornament.

As you can see, the tradition is flexible. Thank God it is. There are still families with just one kid out there; let’s think about them too!

What’s the Origin Story of This Tradition?

The familiar tale says that the Christmas pickle tradition originated in Germany and came to America hundreds of years ago. Weihnachtsgurke (we needed some 15 minutes to write that word!) is an old-world tradition that began in Germany.

However, 97% of Germans had never heard of “Weihnachtsgurke,” let alone having one of those pickle glass ornaments in their home. Thus, the one who spreads this information is either too passionate about German culture or knows little German to understand the meaning of their words. So, where did it come from, then?

There are three theories, none of which are definitive. So, it’s up to you which one you choose. They’re equally wrong and right.

The Starving Soldier Theory

We’re going back in time for this one. During the Civil War, a captured Union Army soldier born in Bavaria was starving to death in a prison camp.

Christmas was coming, and the soldier wanted to have his last meal on Christmas. As he was dying of thirst and starvation, he begged the guard for one last Christmas pickle, and the guard obliged. The soldier got the strength to live (it must’ve been magical or just an enormous one).

The soldier then returned home and, as tradition, started hanging a pickle on his family’s tree every Christmas Eve.

St. Nicholas, Two Boys, and a Barrel

St. Nicholas, two boys and a barrel is a medieval Spanish tale. It has two young boys as the main characters. The tale goes like this. 

The boys were travelling home to meet the holidays with their family. At one point in their journey, they stopped to pass the night at an inn. 

While sleeping, they were killed by the evil innkeeper and put in a pickle barrel. The same evening, St.Nicholas stopped at the very same in (the boys were both lucky and unlucky that night) and found the barrel with the murdered boys. 

After St.Nicholas brought them to life, the boys made it in time for the Christmas dinner. They never returned to that inn again (or we hope so). 

Nevertheless, there’s a little misunderstanding that makes the tale look false. The barrel contained meat for pies, not pickles. So, where are the pickles in this story?

No pickles, no pickle theory. That’s why we don’t really believe that the St.Nicholas story is the origin of the tradition. It’s a great story to tell your kids though. 


The One Theory Which Includes Making Money

This story is probably the most “unmagical” one of all. However, it seems the most rational.

Germans have a long-standing tradition of making different glass blown ornaments. These ornaments became very popular among Americans in the late 1880s after F. W. Woolworth started selling imported Christmas tree decorations.

Likely, the ornaments were in the shape of fruits, vegetables, stars, and many more. Perhaps, there was an abundance of pickles (especially cucumbers), and a witty salesman came up with a marketing idea… genius for that time period if you are to ask us.

So, he started spreading the “It’s an Old World German tradition” story to sell as many pickles as possible. It was a massive success, especially among Americans with German ancestry.


Do You Want to Take Part in This Tradition?

Well, if the story of theChristmas pickle got your interest, no one can stop you from getting a Christmas ornament that embodies a pickled cucumber this Christmas!

Think how happy your children will be when you announce the new rules of the house, “The one who finds the pickle will be special. He’ll get an extra gift!”. You’ll instantly make their day merrier.

That’s probably why so many parents are continuing with this tradition. To see their children's delight. And that’s awesome!

What Do You Need?

Christmas Pickle T-Shirt

There’s something more you’ll need to fully prepare for this Christmas (and this tradition in particular). And that’s ourChristmas pickle T-shirt featuring Christmas pickle ornaments. Let us explain...

You need to be comfortable enough to hide the pickle ornament, right? Our t-shirt has green pickles! Isn’t that the best combo you’ve ever seen?

It’s your duty to pair this holiday tradition with a T-shirt of ours.


Christmas Collection

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