Christmas Pickle: Unveiling a Beloved Holiday Tradition

christmas pickle
christmas pickle

Have you ever heard of the Christmas pickle? It’s not just a shiny ornament, but a cherished tradition in many American households. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of the Christmas pickle and discover its roots!

A Hidden Treasure on the Christmas Tree

Sometime before December 25th, a glass pickle ornament is cleverly hidden within the branches of a Christmas tree. The anticipation builds as family members search for this elusive treasure. The first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning is rewarded with a special treat or the privilege of opening the first gift. This heartwarming tradition encourages children to savor the joy of each present, fostering appreciation and gratitude.

Christmas Pickle Ornament

From Germany to America: Myth or Reality?

The origins of the Christmas pickle tradition are often attributed to Germany. However, a 2016 survey by market research firm YouGov revealed that only 8% of German nationals were familiar with this tradition, and a mere 2% practiced it. So, is the Christmas pickle truly a German tradition?

Old World Christmas, a renowned shop specializing in mouth-blown glass ornaments, including pickle ornaments, prints the origin “story” of the pickle tradition on every ornament box. According to a spokesperson for the company, the pickle ornament has been their best-selling ornament for over 40 years. While the spokesperson confirmed that the company’s founder, Tim Merck, wrote their version of the pickle tradition, it remains uncertain whether he heard it in Germany or created a new tale altogether.

A Festive Tradition Beyond German Borders

Interestingly, the Christmas pickle tradition extends beyond Germany and captivates the hearts of people across the globe. Barrien Springs, Michigan, known for its pickle farms and factories, even held a Christmas Pickle Festival in the 1990s, inspired by Old World Christmas. As a result, Pickle Packers International, the trade group for the pickle industry, crowned Barrien Springs as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World.

Christmas Pickle Festival

Untangling the Mystery

Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, believes that the Christmas pickle tradition does not align with the solemnity of traditional German Christmas festivities. However, she acknowledges the vast cultural diversity within different regions of Germany, allowing for the possibility of a localized pickle-hiding tradition.

Numerous theories and legends attempt to unravel the true meaning behind the pickle ornament. Some evoke tales of a Civil War soldier surviving by eating a pickle in jail, while others recount Saint Nicholas resurrecting two murdered boys who were hidden in a pickle barrel. Each account adds intrigue and allure to this beloved holiday tradition.


Q: Is the Christmas pickle tradition exclusive to Germany?

A: Despite popular belief, the Christmas pickle tradition’s prevalence in Germany remains limited. It is more widely celebrated in American households, transcending cultural boundaries.

Q: Should I follow the Old World Christmas story of the pickle tradition?

A: The origin story accompanying Old World Christmas pickle ornaments adds charm to the tradition. However, feel free to create your own narrative or adapt the tradition to your family’s unique Christmas celebration.


The Christmas pickle tradition, with its delightful blend of mystery and joy, continues to captivate the hearts of families around the world. Although its German origins remain ambiguous, the tradition’s enduring popularity symbolizes the universal joy and anticipation associated with the holiday season. Celebrate this cherished tradition, create new memories, and revel in the magic of the Christmas pickle.

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