Uncovering the History and Meaning Behind the Christmas Pickle Tradition


Uncovering the History and Meaning Behind the Christmas Pickle Tradition


The Christmas season is filled with unique and interesting traditions from around the world. While most are familiar with the traditions of hanging stockings, decorating trees, and exchanging gifts, there is one tradition that seems to stand out and pique the curiosity of many – the Christmas pickle. This peculiar ornament, in the shape of a pickle, is often hidden amongst the branches of the Christmas tree. But where did this tradition come from? And what does it really mean? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and meaning behind the Christmas pickle tradition.

1. The Mysterious Origins

The exact origins of the Christmas pickle tradition are shrouded in mystery and debate. There are several popular theories, each offering a different explanation for its origin. One theory suggests that it originated in Germany during the 16th century, with the pickle serving as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. According to this theory, parents would secretly hang the pickle ornament on the tree, and on Christmas morning, the child who found the pickle would receive an extra gift or be crowned the "pickle" king or queen for the day.

2. Ode to St. Nicholas

Another theory traces the tradition back to the legendary figure of Saint Nicholas. According to this folklore, when St. Nicholas encountered a pickle barrel during his travels, he miraculously resurrected two children trapped inside. To commemorate this extraordinary event, people began hanging pickle ornaments on their Christmas trees. This theory gained popularity in the United States when it was introduced by German immigrants in the 19th century.

3. A Modern American Tradition

Regardless of its true origin, the Christmas pickle tradition gained particular prominence in the United States. It is believed to have gained popularity during the late 19th century when glass pickle ornaments were imported from Germany. These ornate glass pickles were often hidden amidst the other ornaments on the tree, adding an element of surprise and excitement to the festivities. Over time, the tradition evolved, and it became customary for families to gather around the tree and search for the hidden pickle.

4. The Hunt for the Pickle

The act of finding the hidden pickle has become a beloved Christmas tradition for many families. Often, the parents are the ones who hide the pickle ornament, carefully positioning it among the branches. When the children are granted permission to begin the hunt, excitement fills the air as they eagerly search for the green pickle hiding in plain sight. The first child to spot the pickle is bestowed with the honor of opening the first present or receiving a special treat.

5. A Symbol of Good Luck

In addition to its role in the Christmas game, the pickle ornament holds symbolism beyond its decorative appearance. While the exact meaning may vary among different families, it is commonly believed that finding the pickle brings good luck and blessings for the coming year. Some even attribute additional meanings to the pickle, associating it with fertility, health, and harmony within the family.


The Christmas pickle tradition is a fascinating and festive custom that has captured the imagination of many people worldwide. Whether it originated as a symbol of good luck or has connections to St. Nicholas, the tradition continues to intrigue and entertain families during the holiday season. Today, the search for the hidden pickle remains an exciting game, bringing joy and excitement to the hearts of young and old alike. So, as you gather around the tree this Christmas, take a moment to appreciate the history and meaning behind the pickle ornament, and have fun in the search for the cherished holiday symbol.


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