Monday, November 28, 2016



   Peek among the branches of the family Christmas tree in many homes, and you may spot a glistening green glass pickle ornament or 2.  Do you find yourself in a pickle, trying to figure out why this pickled cucumber ornament is a symbol for Christmas?

Why do many families traditionally hang pickles on their Christmas trees?

   The Christmas pickle ornament tradition apparently began centuries ago in Germany.  As a family gathered to decorate the Christmas tree together on Christmas Eve, a blown glass pickle would be among the holiday ornaments.  Once the Christmas tree was fully trimmed, one of the parents would secretly hide a glass pickle ornament among the branches.
   On Christmas morning, the first child in the family to find the Christmas pickle, tucked inside the branches of the Christmas tree, would be considered especially lucky.  Often, the Christmas pickle finding child would receive an extra special holiday gift from Santa (also known as St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaus, Father Christmas or even Kris Kringle), and the parents would usually pronounce a blessing upon that youngster for the coming year.
   Over the years, glass Christmas pickle ornaments have become popular holiday gifts, and families of many nationalities and backgrounds now hang bright green glass pickles among the branches of their Christmas trees.

Vintage Christmas Pickles


Do other Christmas pickle legends exist?

   American Civil War history buffs may tell the Christmas pickle story somewhat differently.  A popular tale recounts how a Civil War soldier was captured and sentenced to capital punishment.  However, before the soldier died, he pleaded with his guard to stave off his hunger by sharing a pickle with him. 
   The soldier did share, reflecting the Christmas spirit of kindness and generosity.
   Another Christmas pickle story dates back to medieval times, recounting the capture of two young Spanish schoolboys.  Traveling home for Christmas, the lads were captured by a wicked tavern owner, who locked them inside a giant pickle barrel.  In the night, Saint Nicholas freed the boys from the briny barrel.
   A final explanation is often mentioned for the Christmas pickle tradition.  This story points to the poverty many families experienced during the second Word War.  Perhaps some families could not afford to make or purchase decorations for their Christmas trees and used what they already had on hand, such as green pickles.
  Of course, the Christmas pickle tradition contains some inaccuracies, as may the folklore attached to the briny baubles.  For example, according to German Christmas traditions, St. Nicholas arrives on the Night of St. Nicholas (December 5th), rather than Christmas Eve.
   Still, regardless of lore or legend, the Christmas pickle tradition continues, and glass Christmas pickles may be found among many modern families' Christmas tree ornament collections.

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