Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Mystery of the Christmas Pickle

Have you ever heard of the tradition of the Christmas pickle ornament?

Several years ago, I saw a pickle ornament being sold in one of those junk catalogs you receive in the mail.  I thought it was an odd thing to place on your Christmas tree so I took a closer look.  It mentioned that the ornaments are a tradition in Germany.

Well, that made sense to me. The first people to bring greenery indoors during the winter months did so to celebrate the winter solstice and this pre-dates Christianity but the idea of bringing an entire tree indoors to decorate appears to have originated in Germany.

The legend states that the pickle was always the last ornament to go on the tree and it was hidden in the tree so it wasn't easy to find. The first child to find the pickle on the tree on Christmas day would get an extra present from St. Nicholas. That seems like a nice tradition and I almost purchased a pickle just because I liked the story.  But I didn't.  After all, it's a still a pickle which is an odd thing to have on a tree.

The other day, I saw something that caught my attention:  A short article on the myth of the Christmas pickle. Myth?  Yes.  It appears that it might have been made up.  See, St. Nicholas was supposed to arrive earlier in the month  in Germany- the 5th or 6th of December - not Christmas.  Also, German children open their presents on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.  The biggest problem with the story is that people in Germany seem to have never heard of this tradition!

There is an alternate story of an American civil war soldier who was captured and held in Georgia.  The man was wounded and didn't know if he would live or die. He begged his guard to bring him a pickle to eat so he did. The prisoner eventually recovered and was released. He was sure that the pickle had aided his recovery so he started the tradition of the pickle ornament on the tree with his family.  That story seems a bit odd but I suppose it is possible.

Regardless of the origins of the pickle ornament,. it is now a tradition in some families here in the US.  Oddly enough, the ornaments are often made in Germany.

Image obtained here.

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