The Legend of the Pickle
The Legend of the pickle is like many legends - only as good as the story teller's who share it. Take time to enjoy the legend (s) and start your own family legends with a Christmas Pickle on your tree.
The Legend of the Pickle -
The Christmas pickle is not really a pickle at all, it is a pickle-shaped ornament. A very old Christmas Eve tradition in Germany was to hide a pickle ( ornament ) deep in the branches of the family Christmas Tree. The parents hung the pickle last after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning they knew the most observant child would receive an extra gift from St Nicholas. The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year. This Christmas pickle story, with a few minor variations, can be found all over the web and in print inside the glass ornament package. It says that Germans hang a pickle-shaped glass ornament on the Christmas tree hidden away so it's difficult to find. The first child to find it on Christmas morning gets a special treat or extra present.
In retrospect the real essence behind this family tradition is to take time to savor the moment with family and friends and while searching for the pickle enjoy the beauty of the tree and it's ornaments - teaching children to stop and enjoy the beauty of the season and not focus on the gifts under the tree.
Or so one of the legend goes...
A second version begins with a family story of a Bavarian-born ancestor who fought in the American Civil War. A prisoner in poor health and starving, he begged a guard for just one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and found a pickle for him. The pickle by the grace of God gave him the physical and mental strength to live on.
A yet another version began in Berrien Springs, MI, and is a medieval tale of two Spanish boys traveling home from boarding school for the holidays. When they stopped at an inn for the night, the innkeeper, a mean and evil man, stuffed the boys into a pickle barrel. That evening , St Nicholas stopped at the same inn, realized the boys plight and tapped the pickle barrel with his staff, magically freeing the trapped boys.
Berrien Springs calls itself the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. They celebrate with an annual Christmas Pickle Festival which takes place in the early part of December. The highlight of the parade is the Grand "Dill"meister who passes out fresh pickles along the parade route. You may even purchase the German glass pickle ornaments at the towns museum.
Rumor and speculation place the origin of the tradition in Germany, however few in modern-day Germany recognize or have even heard of the Christmas pickle, although my grandmother who was from Germany did have a pickle for the tree. Regardless of where it came from, the Christmas tradition survives and is a fun and great family tradition worth sharing. Ornament manufacturers continue to make the specialty ornaments and enjoy sharing this legend and its origins regardless.