Who Started This Pickle Tradition Anyway?
Back in 2017, we had a pickle tree in our Christmas Shop. It seemed that everyone had a story about why you needed to have a pickle on your tree. Adrienne, one of Behnke’s Christmas Elves, wrote a little article about how this tradition came to be.
After my last craft show where I sold out all the pickles and the new Old World Pickle Jar Ornament (I mean, why hang just one pickle when you could hang a whole jar?), I decided to look a little deeper into this story.
My First Christmas Pickle
As a young bride working at Behnke’s Christmas shop in 1979, I bought a pickle for my first Christmas tree. I explained to my husband that this was a wonderful German tradition. Then when my babies came along, I decided to buy each of them their own pickles and wrote their names on each. I got my husband Jon the tiniest little gurken ornament since it was the perfect size for his three letters. We made finding the pickle on the tree more of a game. Now my son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren each have their pickles hanging on our tree. The thing is, my German grandparents never heard of this tradition. Neither had my step-father, who was born in Hamburg, Germany. Come to find out, pretty much no one born in Germany had ever heard of this.
Taking what Adrienne had found in her article, I started looking for more information. The most famous story by far hails from Germany, where they use the term Weihnachtsgurke, which translates to Christmas Eve Cucumber. The story of this holiday tradition involves hanging an ornamental pickle on the tree the night before Christmas, and the first person to find it on Christmas morning receives an extra present from Santa Claus along with a year of good luck. But once again, no one from Germany has ever heard of this.
What Does Woolworths Have To Do With This Story?
I think the truth is more likely part of a marketing ploy at Woolworths. Around the 1880s, the five-and-dime store started importing all sorts of glass Christmas ornaments from Germany, including vegetables. However, it sounded like the sales of the glass pickles were not a robust as the other ornaments. Maybe because they were green and hard to see on the customer’s Christmas tree, but they were not selling. I would imagine that a brilliant salesperson came up with the story of the German pickle. You have heard that if you say something often enough, it must be true? Well, here you have it! The German Pickle Story.
There are other stories out there about how the pickle became a must-have on your Christmas Tree. The bottom line is that most in Germany have never heard of this tradition. For the rest of us, we will still hang our pickles on our trees while enjoying the fun of the Christmas pickle year after year. I know my family will.