Why Do Some People Hang a Pickle on Their Christmas Tree?

We all have our Christmas traditions, but here’s one perhaps you haven’t heard of: The Christmas pickle.

Believe it or not, some people hang a pickle ornament from their Christmas tree. The first person or child to find the ornament gets a present. Others believe the finder will be the recipient of good fortune in the new year. However, no one seems to know where the tradition comes from—though the history of some of your other favorite Christmas traditions is well-documented.

Here’s one theory: According to several sources, in the late 1880s, Woolworth stores began selling glass ornaments imported from Germany. These ornaments were made in the shapes of fruits and vegetables, including the pickle. Yet it’s unclear why the pickle became the tradition. It was green so it was hard to find on the tree? Maybe! Pickle or no pickle, this is the best day to buy your Christmas tree.

Another theory includes a soldier in the American Civil War. When the soldier was taken prisoner on Christmas Eve, he begged a guard for one last pickle before he died. The guard gave him a pickle and it gave him the strength he needed. When the soldier returned to his family, he started the tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree every year. Again, maybe.

A third theory includes two Spanish boys who were traveling home for the holidays from their boarding school. They stopped for the night at an inn where they were killed and their bodies were put in a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nicholas stopped at the inn, found the boys in the barrel and brought them back to life. Yikes!

While no one is certain where the tradition comes from, many in one Michigan town celebrate the pickle every December. Berrien Springs is recognized as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. They celebrate with a parade led by the Grand Dillmeister, who passes out fresh pickles along the parade route.

If you can’t get your hands on a pickle this holiday, here are 26 DIY Christmas decorations anyone can make.

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Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.