A Right Pretty Pickle

Christmas pickle ornament on tree
My Christmas tree is a hodgepodge of ornaments, some elegant, some silly, some new, and some very old. But the tree is never complete without the most famous ornament of all: the Christmas Pickle. When most people think of Christmas, they don’t exactly think of pickles; but aren’t the best traditions usually a little off-center?

The Christmas Pickle tradition is based on two different legends. In one, the pickle dates back to a family custom in old-world Germany. In another, a native-Bavarian soldier in the American Civil War was saved from starvation by a pickle and branded it a symbol of good luck. Whatever the lore, the tradition goes like this: on Christmas Eve, the pickle ornament is hidden on the tree. In the morning, the lucky child who finds it gets an extra gift from St. Nicholas.

Neither of these legends have any real traction in the history books, but it is true that Germany is known for its blown-glass ornaments (which include fruits and vegetables and yes, even pickles). And, it’s true that the pickle tradition is gaining in popularity and becoming a modern-day legend all its own. And it’s also true that everyone – children and adults alike – love to look for the pickle, and when they find it, they expect a reward! Or, at least they do in my family.

Christmas pickle ornament hidden on treeOur family’s pickle tradition came through a dear friend, who gave them as gifts one year. And I’ll tell you, if you want to see some odd looks on people’s faces, try giving them a glass pickle in a box! “Gee, thanks . . .” But once we heard the legends, we adopted the tradition in fine style, and the pickles have a place of well-hidden honor on our trees each year.

We don’t save the game for Christmas morning – instead, the pickle gets hidden right away, and visitors are invited to find it and claim their prize. I don’t know what it is about pickles, but the game captures everyone’s imagination. Competition is sometimes fierce among adults (especially if the prize is one of my mother’s sweet-potato pies), and children love to find it over and over again.

Sometimes the silliest traditions are the best ones, and the pickle is a “dilly” of a game, guaranteed to get the whole family gathered around the tree laughing within minutes. Just make sure your prize basket is well-stocked!


  1. Love this story! I had never heard it before! I guess I’ll have to figure out how to make some pickle ornaments for gifts next year, and also to fix the story to go with it! What a fun way to get the family together! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Maddy: It depends who you are hiding it from. With very young children, you would want it down low, not too far inside the branches. Otherwise, it should obscured a bit by branches or other ornaments. If it is up high, you dhould be able to catch a glimpse of it, as it needs to be able to be spotted and reachable, not impossible to discover or hidden so you would have to radically disturb the other decorations.

  3. Hello – I am so excited to see this post! We just launched The Christmas Pickle Tradition Gift Set in 2014…and recently won the Illumination Award! I learned about the tradition a few years ago but couldn’t find a children’s story to go along with it – I also wanted to bring this little tradition into more households. It was a 2-year labor of love but the packaging is beautiful and the feedback has been amazing. The set includes a wonderful children’s story about Pickle Elf and how he learned the magic of giving, a glistening green pickle ornament and the annual pickle finder (a space to list each year who found the pickle!). Please check us out online at ChristmasPickleTradition.com. Thanks.

    Tammy Dwyer, Author

  4. I usually hide the pickle Christmas morning. Who ever finds the pickle gets a gift and is suppose to be the one to hide it the following Christmas and is to provide the gift but I usually do it.


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