german christmas pickle
You may have heard about the German pickle legend. According to the story, parents in Germany used to hide an ornament shaped like a pickle in the Christmas tree. The first child to find the ornament would get an extra present from Santa and good luck for the coming year.

If that sounds like an odd tradition, it’s because the “tradition” is an urban myth. Most Germans have never heard of this tradition that allegedly originated in their country. In addition, children in Germany traditionally open their presents on Christmas Eve, and Santa Claus doesn’t bring gifts on Christmas morning in Germany. So it would be hard for Santa to bring an extra gift to a child who discovered the secret pickle on Christmas morn.

So if the tradition doesn’t exist in Germany, where did the legend of the German Christmas pickle originate? If you search the Internet, About.com has an article that attempts to find the source. According to the article, a descendant of an American Civil War soldier might have the answer. The descendent said their ancestor was born in Bavaria, came to the US and fought in the Civil War. He was captured and sent to prison. “In poor health and starving, he begged a guard for just one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and found a pickle for John Lower. According to family legend, John said that the pickle—by the grace of God—gave him the mental and physical strength to live on. Once he was reunited with his family he began a tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree. The first person who found the pickle on Christmas morning would be blessed with a year of good fortune.”

The About.com article then points out that the family legend still leaves a lot of questions about the German pickle “tradition.”

It’s obvious that the German pickle legend isn’t an ancient European tradition that migrated to America. But if you believe hanging a glass pickle on the Christmas tree will bring you luck for the coming year, why not try it? Who knows? Maybe it will work.