Home German Holidays and Festivals German Christmas Traditions German Pickle Ornament Story- How did the Green Pickle Ornament Tradition Start?
German Pickle Ornament Story- How did the Green Pickle Ornament Tradition Start?

German Pickle Ornament Story- How did the Green Pickle Ornament Tradition Start?

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green pickle ornament tradition




Old World Christmas Pickle Glass Blown OrnamentOld World Christmas Pickle Glass Blown Ornament

It’s time to talk about the German Pickle Ornament Story, and shatter the myth once and for all… Germans Don’t Hang Pickles in their Christmas Tree. 

I know, I know… someone told you it’s a REAL GERMAN TRADITION

And maybe your Oma hung a pickle in her tree….

But truth is, the Christmas Pickle Ornament Tradition is no more German than Fortune Cookies are Chinese (but that’s another story). Germans do love pickles (I have 3 different types in my refrigerator at any given time)… but not in trees.

German Green Pickle Ornament Tradition

For those of you who have never heard the German Green pickle ornament tradition, it goes something like this… every year when the Christmas Tree is decorated, the LAST ornament on the tree (hung by mom and dad) is a green glass pickle. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the Pickle Ornament on the Tree would get an extra gift.

Did anyone spot the red flag?? (hint… Christmas MORNING) In Germany, the tree is revealed, and presents are given on Christmas Eve.

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German Pickle Ornament Story

green pickle ornament tradition
Photo-courtesy of Tricia on Flikr Creative Commons.

The truth is not quite as magical… There are several pickle story theories, but the one that seems most valid goes like this.

In the 1890s German Immigrants were flooding into America, bringing with them customs and traditions, including, the Christmas Tree. Woolworths had loads of these new ornaments, and in among the blown glass vegetables were pickle ornaments that no one was buying (who wants a pickle ornament on their tree? It would scare the cat!). So, a marketing genius kicked his brain into high gear, and created a story about the Christmas Pickle… and the green glass pickles flew off the shelves. Suddenly, this German Tradition (which had never been heard of in Germany) was all the rage!

Other Christmas Pickle Stories

german pickle ornament traditionThere is another story, about a Bavarian-born Civil War soldier, Private John C Lower,  who was captured and held in a Confederate Army prison camp. On Christmas Eve, the starving Private begged the guard for a pickle. He claimed it saved his life, and every year from then on he hid a pickle in his Christmas tree…

Believe it or not, there is a miracle pickle story, and oddly, it is Spanish, and not German. It seems that two Spanish boys were returning home from boarding room, when they stopped at an Inn for the night. The Innkeeper killed them, and stuffed their bodies in a pickle barrel. As luck would have it, St Nicholas happened to be staying at the very same Inn, found the boys, and brought them back to life. It doesn’t explain why St. Nicholas was looking into the pickle barrel in the first place…but then, this is a miracle story. (And back in Sunday School, Mrs. Gherke, always told me to stop questioning miracle stories). (Also, the story was most likely changed a bit from the original, which says that the boys were put in a pickling vat for meats that would be turned into sausage… equally gruesome)

German Pickle Ornaments

That said… Traditions and stories are what connect and entertain us. If you want to have a Pickle Ornament on your tree, PLEASE DO! The kids love it. Any tradition that brings the family closer and makes Christmas more fun for the kids is exactly right with me.

It doesn’t matter where your pickle comes from! Frankly, I’m planning on getting a Yodeling Pickle, just to vex my mom!

Frohe Weinachten!

(PS The city of Berrien Springs MI, aka The Christmas Pickle Capitol of the World actually held a Christmas Pickle Festival each year (I’m not seeing it in this year’s calendar… Can anyone confirm that it still exists?) That sound like a lot of fun to me.)

Find a Selection of Green Pickle Ornaments Here

Old World Christmas Pickle Glass Blown OrnamentOld World Christmas Pickle Glass Blown OrnamentTraditional German Christmas Pickle OrnamentTraditional German Christmas Pickle OrnamentRoman 2-Piece Exclusive Christmas Pickle and Decorated Glass Jar Hanging Ornament, 1.5-InchRoman 2-Piece Exclusive Christmas Pickle and Decorated Glass Jar Hanging Ornament, 1.5-InchGanz The Christmas Pickle OrnamentGanz The Christmas Pickle Ornament(12) One Dozen Hand Blown Glass Pickle Christmas Tree Ornaments for Good Luck Trim-A-Tree Stocking Stuffer or Gift Giving by OTC(12) One Dozen Hand Blown Glass Pickle Christmas Tree Ornaments for Good Luck Trim-A-Tree Stocking Stuffer or Gift Giving by OTCNoble Gems Old World Pickle Glass Christmas Tree Ornament Decoration GC0034 NewNoble Gems Old World Pickle Glass Christmas Tree Ornament Decoration GC0034 Newmerry Christmas Pickle Ornamentmerry Christmas Pickle Ornament

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Christmas Pickle Ornament Polymer ClayChristmas Pickle Ornament Polymer ClayChristmas Pickle Ornament / Personalized Christmas OrnamentChristmas Pickle Ornament / Personalized Christmas OrnamentHandmade Lampwork Glass Ornament Christmas PickleHandmade Lampwork Glass Ornament Christmas Pickle

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And my Personal Favorite! The Yodeling Pickle

It even has a motion sensor, so it will drive anyone who walks past the Christmas Tree CRAZY! (I just KNOW my mom will love it)

Lucky Yodelling Christmas Pickle Ornament by Archie McPheeLucky Yodelling Christmas Pickle Ornament by Archie McPhee

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Send Christmas Gifts Nationwide
german pickle ornament tradition

Comment(13)

  1. I am a member of St Johns Lutheran Church ,,, and 75% of the people there are German and they told me the same storys about the pickle and i have put it on my tree ,,,, i thank its great that a story can change an person style of thinking in X-mas and to be able to add more fun and feelings with the family as long as we never forget what X-mas is really about ,,, May God Bless you all

  2. A friend send me a pickle one year and I wondered why she send me a pickle ornament so I asked her and she told me that somebody told her it was a German tradition to hang one on the tree.
    I personally never heared of it but I thanked her and put it on the tree!
    Nice story’s anyway. That is part of believing!
    Merry Christmas!

  3. I’m from Germany and, after hearing the pickle Story we actually really Do this, since a few years now.
    it’s just a little game so Kids Don’t even Start fighting over, who gets the First present.
    And it’s just a pickle because it has the Same color as the tree?

  4. As long as you know to distinguish between tradition and pure fantasy you may do what ever is fun and pleases you.
    Germans eat pickles and traditionally don’t hang them in the tree.

  5. I am a 68 year old women born and raised in Germany. Ok, never ever heard of a Pickle story ornament until about 1 years ago at my sister-in-laws in DELAVAN, ILL. No such thing, but I love the idea of People doing it. it’s so much fun when she hides it, then the kids, only kids get to go find it. love it! by the way, yes the Christmas-tree don’t get put up until the 24th. late at night by mom and dad. Also, we have two Christmas holidays, the 25th. and the 26th. All stores are closed, the time and meaning of Christmas is then celebrated. Christmas time is my favorite time of the Year!

  6. My Great Grandfather came from Germany in 1858 and married a woman hear in America. He did this with his children and they did it with their children. Long story short there was always a pickle on our tree growing up and I was always told it was a German tradition so I carried it along to my family and now my daughter does it with my granddaughter. 6 generations and still going in my family.

  7. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary when Elizabeth was 6 month with child, John the Baptist.
    The child in the womb of Elizabeth jumped for joy when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and Elizabeth.
    This anointing happened around Dec. 25th.. This can easily be figured out because Zecharia (father of John) went unto his wife after doing temple duties during the course of Abia during the month of Tamuz (Babaloyian and hebrew month of June). Elizabeth was 6 months with child, so six month from june
    is December. So Jesus was conceived at Christmas. So there is no pickle in this story

    1. Just keep in mind that we celebrate the same joy that John the Baptisf had when he jumped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and Elizabeth around Dec 25th

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