The Christmas Pickle

Among the many ornaments decorating Christmas trees, many people have a “Christmas pickle.”  It isn’t an actual pickle, but it is a traditional, glass ornament shaped like a pickle.

What’s up with that?

Well, the tradition supposedly comes from Germany where the pickle ornament is the last ornament placed on the tree after the children have left.  The first child to find the pickle ornament gets the first gift of Christmas.

Trouble is, no one in Germany has ever heard of this tradition.  

There are two other stories associated with this ornament.  One commemorates a civil war soldier who, nearing death in prison, was given a pickle that sustained him through the ordeal.

This story also has no actual history connected to it.

The last origin story is a bit gruesome.  Two young, Spanish boys were passing by an Inn when the innkeeper captured, killed them, and hid their bodies in a pickle barrel until St. Nicolas arrived and resurrected them.  

Not the kind of story that will help get your kids to go to sleep on Christmas Eve!

The actual story of the Christmas pickle ornament is this:  Glass ornaments of vegetables became very popular in the 1890s and were imported from Germany.  Woolworths, who sold most of them, found that not many people wanted the pickle.  So, they made up a story about it being a long standing German tradition to begin the Christmas season.

Christmas Pickle Ornament

The strategy worked!  Not many people have vegetable ornaments today, but pickle ornaments are still quite common.

How can we redeem the pickle story so that it brings us closer to the spirit of Christmas?  How about this:  The least popular and most forgotten vegetable ornament became the most important one of all!

A bit like that baby born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago.

(I feel a Children’s Sermon coming on!)

See you in church,

–Rev. Dominic