There are a few variations, but the story goes that the first child to find the pickle Christmas ornament is to be awarded with the first present, an extra present or the job of handing out the presents, as well as good fortune for the year.
While the quirky custom known as Weihnachtsgurke, or Christmas Pickle, supposedly has its roots in Germany, apparently most Germans haven’t even heard of it. In fact, the New York Times reported that out of 2,057 Germans polled in 2016, YouGov determined 91% were unaware of the legend.
The pickle ornament tradition is actually most popular in the Midwest, says the publication. Perhaps the large number of German immigrants in the region, including in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a German settlement and the self-proclaimed “Christmas Pickle Capital of the World,” has something to do with that. Berrien Springs even hosts an annual Christmas Pickle Festival.
But the origin of the salty snack as a Christmas tradition is a bit of a, well, pickle. No one really knows the truth. In one tale, a villainous innkeeper trapped two boys in a pickle barrel, and St. Nicholas himself set them free, according to Tampa Bay Magazine. Others say a Civil War soldier (and German immigrant) being held captive in Georgia begged for and was given a pickle, which ended up sustaining him.
But a third theory suggests perhaps it was a mere marketing scheme. In the 1840s, German glassblowers made ornaments shaped like fruit and nuts, so pickles might have been a possibility, and by the 1880s, F. W. Woolworth Company (the American five-and-dime store) started importing them to sell, paired with the story.
Regardless of its actual origins, this tradition remains popular (and salty!) today.
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