Pickles are green, somewhat sour, crispy, crunchy, and make your cheeks pucker. They’re a great addition to any burger or hot dog. If you love pickles, perhaps you already have a Christmas pickle ornament on your tree. However, if you are one of those who has yet to hear of the tradition of the Christmas pickle, you’re in for a real treat.
The story goes something like this…
Two Spanish boys were traveling home from boarding school to spend time with their families over the holidays. They stopped over to rest at an inn for the night. The evil innkeeper steals everything the boys own and then stuffs them into a pickle barrel. Now this very evening, who happens to stop by for a rest at the inn but St. Nicholas! He somehow becomes aware of the boys in the pickle barrel, taps the barrel with his staff, and in an instant, the boys are magically returned to normal. The boys thank St. Nicholas and continue on their journey home to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.
The tradition of the Christmas pickle ornament supposedly hails from Laschau, Germany years ago. The pickle ornament was the very last one to be hung on the fir tree on Christmas Eve. The parents would hide the special pickle ornament deep inside the green fir boughs. On Christmas morning, the children immediately began searching for the special pickle ornament. They believed that the first child to locate the pickle ornament would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas in addition to their other gifts. If the family couldn’t afford the extra gift, the child who found the pickle ornament was the first one to open presents instead.
There is another version of the Christmas pickle story as well. A Bavarian-born ancestor who fought in the American Civil War was a prisoner of war. Suffering from poor health, he appealed to the guard for one pickle to eat before he passed away. The guard was moved by the simple request and gave him a pickle. According to the story, the pickle, by the grace of God, gave the prisoner strength and he indeed didn’t die.
In Berrien Springs, Michigan, the annual Christmas Pickle Festival is a well-attended event in December. During the parade, the Grand Dillmeister passes out fresh pickles to the folks along the parade route, which is always the highlight of the festivities.
Production of blown glass Christmas pickle ornaments was begun in the 1890’s. Even today you can easily find these ornaments for your tree. Many of them are still created from blown glass; hand painted, and then tucked in a special box or pickle jar along with a copy of the story behind the ornament.
Oddly, the German people don’t accept either one of the versions of the Christmas pickle story. Despite the possibility that the story is a hoax, the tradition lives on and is fondly celebrated all over the United States.
Maybe this is the year that you and your family (just for fun!) should celebrate the tradition of the Christmas pickle and add a little bit of fun and excitement to your family holidays.
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