As the weather gets chillier and the holidays approach, many families are readying to put pickle ornaments on their Christmas trees. You might have heard of the tradition before, but what exactly is this quirky holiday habit, and where did it come from?
Some Christmas celebrants hide a pickle ornament — dubbed a weihnachtsgurke — in their tree on Dec. 24. The first child to spot the pickle ornament on Christmas is said to get a present and extra fortune.
The pickle ornament practice is credited to Germany, but most Germans know nothing about it, according to The New York Times. In November 2016, 91% of the 2,057 Germans that YouGov polled responded that they had not heard of custom, the newspaper reported.
The website whychristmas.com offers dueling origin stories for the ritual. In one legend, a prisoner of war in the Civil War implored a jail guard to give him a pickle, and when the guard complied, the pickle inspired the soldier to live.
In the other folktale, two boys were heading home from school before Christmas. The boys’ journey took a dark turn when the owner of the inn they were staying in murdered them and stuffed them into a pickle barrel — but then Saint Nicholas worked his magic to resurrect them.
Woolworth stores began selling glass ornaments, including ones of pickles, in the 1880s, according to the website. In 2017, Six Flags Over Georgia set the world record for most pickle ornaments on Christmas trees, CBS46 reported at the time. About 500 people gathered to add Pier 1 pickle ornaments to trees.