Christmas Pickles? A look at a holiday tradition.
I’m not that girl in your office that starts blasting holiday music long before Thanksgiving has even come and gone. I loathe the site of Christmas lights and decorations hitting the store floors the day after Halloween. I’m just not the biggest spreader of holiday cheer. But for some reason, I am kind of feeling it this year. Last weekend, even, I actually got my Christmas lights put up and decorated the tree! A whole three weeks before Christmas… where’s my cookie?
While I was decorating, I got to thinking about holiday traditions. Having been raised in a religious family, we always had an advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas. Each day we would get to untie a piece of candy and anxiously await the final piece which would signify Santa’s arrival. I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to put one up this year, and the response I got was full of indifference. We aren’t religious, so I guess it wasn’t a big deal. However, I do like the idea of passing on holiday traditions to my kids someday.
Which leads me back to the title… Christmas Pickles. Have you heard of this? I have a few friends whose families would hide a pickle-shaped ornament in the tree on Christmas Eve and the first person to find it in the morning would get a special gift. For some reason this absolutely cracks me up. A pickle? What is so festive about a pickle? Well, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that I did a little research and here’s what I found:
- Apparently, parents love this tradition because it encourages children to take the time to appreciate all of the beautiful ornaments on the Christmas tree.
- Nobody seems to know exactly where this tradition began.
- Although it is commonly stated that the Christmas pickle tradition began in Germany, many Germans say they have never heard of this custom.
- MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: An alternate theory regarding the history of Christmas pickles attributes the custom to Civil War solider John Lower. After being captured and sent to prison in Andersonville, Georgia, his health took a turn for the worse. As he was starving and near death, he begged the prison guard for one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him, giving Mr. Lower a pickle that he later claimed gave him the physical and mental strength to continue living. When he returned to his family after the war, Mr. Lower began hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree to bring fortune and good luck to the one who found it on Christmas morning.
- Today, Berrien Springs, Michigan, calls itself the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. This town celebrates with a Christmas Pickle Festival held in early December and a parade led by a Grand Dillmeister, who gives the visitors fresh pickles. However, the local residents who promote this Christmas Pickle Festival claim the tradition originated when two Spanish boys traveling home from boarding school for the holidays were stuffed into a pickle barrel by a mean innkeeper and later freed when St. Nicholas took pity on them and tapped the barrel with his staff.
So there you have it! As with many traditions, people just observe them, and don’t always fully know what they’re about. But isn’t the idea of holiday festivities simply to enjoy time with the ones you love? And how much fun is trying to find a pickle in a tree.
Does your family have any strange or fun holiday traditions? I’m officially on the hunt for something to add to my yearly celebrations.