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Gingerbread World German Christmas Market – Traditional Christmas Pickle Glass Tree Ornament

The German Christmas Pickle - Long Tradition or Complete Myth??

Not too long ago I posted on Facebook about the German Pickle Ornament or Weihnachtsgurke we are selling this year for the Holiday Season. It was a tongue in cheek post claiming that the Pickle Ornament and the practice of hiding it on the Christmas Tree was an age old tradition in Germany.

Well...that post definitely got some response! And it was pretty clear that there was nothing German about the Pickle tradition but that it was a tradition and a much loved one!

So what is this supposed tradition and where did it come from?

Gingerbread World Blog - The German Christmas Pickle Ornament or Weihnachsgurke
The tradition is that you are supposed to hide a Pickle-shaped glass ornament somewhere on your Christmas Tree and on Christmas morning the first person to find the hidden ornament gets to open their gifts first, or gets a special gift or just gets good luck for the rest of the year! In more specific versions of the story the gift is given by St. Nickolaus.

Gingerbread World Blog - German Christmas Pickle Ornament
My in laws are German and for all my married life we have celebrated Christmas with my husband's family on Christmas Eve (Heiligabendbecause that's when Germans traditionally celebrate. So this pokes a whole in the pickle hiding and finding story because in Germany the gifts are already opened by Christmas Morning.

Also - the extra gift could not be given by St. Nikolaus because he shows up in German Christmas in early December (remember him - he's the guy who fills kids' shoes with candies on December 5 or 6)(I'm not sure why Germans would be concerned about a Pickle Ornament tradition when they can accommodate shoe-filling!!).

We have hosted 6 young people from Germany over the years and I've polled most of them to see if they've heard of the Pickle story...they have not (and neither had their parents!).

So where did this crazy and wonderful tradition come from?

There are a couple of less than convincing stories out there about a civil war soldier and about boys being saved from a barrel - they're not great stories.

The explanation I enjoy (maybe because I've always been in marketing) is this one lifted here from Wikipedia:

"It has been suggested that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations from Germany. Woolworths was the first company to import these types of decorations into the United States in 1890 and glass blown decorative vegetables were imported from France from 1892 onwards. Despite the evidence showing that the tradition did not originate in Germany, the concept of Christmas pickles has since been imported from the United States and they are now on sale in the country traditionally associated with it."

But wherever this tradition comes from it has caught on - and not just on this side of the Atlantic. Ornament producers are pumping out Christmas Pickles to keep up. And for a company like Inge-Glas that mouth blows each of their ornaments that's a whole lot of hot air!

Join the Christmas Pickle fun and start your own tradition! We've got three Pickle Ornaments to choose from - from 2 different workshops in Germany!


Owner @ Gingerbread World

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Ray Mueller - September 19, 2018

I knew this tradition was not nor has it ever been a German Christmas tradition. And I was gonna write you about that. But some of your customers have already brought that to your attention. I’m glad you corrected yourself. I think this is really Commercial Marketing 101. Two years ago we spent Christmas with relatives in Germany. Lo and behold, on Christmas Eve we spotted a pickle on the tree! So it seems this not-a-tradition, is catching on, if only for the novelty of the decoration. It’s fun though. Thanks for the grin.

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