The Christmas pickle has been blamed on the German people for years. The tradition of placing an ornament shaped like a big green gherkin on the Christmas tree is said to have begun in the city of Laschau, Germany. That probably is because glassblowers in that city were among the first to produce the beautiful glass ornaments used on Christmas trees today.
According to the Pomnitz Family Website, the Christmas pickle ornament started out as a game in Germany. Parents would hide the pickle ornament in the dense boughs of the family Christmas tree on St. Nicholas Eve, or Christmas Eve. Children would use all their energy to find this pickle. The first child to find the pickle received either an extra gift from St. Nicholas or was the first to open his gifts on St. Nicholas Day, or Christmas Day. There is much debate as to the origin of the game as not many German people claim it.
Civil War Era Pickle Explanation
According to My Merry Christmas, an American Civil War soldier originally from Bavaria was taken as a prisoner in Georgia. The conditions were so poor in the prison that he became very ill and thought he was going to die. He asked a guard for a pickle, and the guard took pity on the man and found one for him. This pickle somehow gave the man the will to live and he survived against all odds.
The Schoolboys and Pickle Barrel
Another legend comes from Spain and involves three schoolboys who were traveling home during the holidays from a boarding school. According to CelebrateLights, they stopped at an inn to spend the night, but the innkeeper was a terrible man and robbed the boys of their possessions, killed them and put their bodies in a pickle barrel. St. Nicholas -- the bishop, not Santa Claus -- just happened to go to that same inn the night after the deed was done. He knew the boys were in the barrel and tapped on it with his bishop's staff. The boys were revived and released from the barrel to rejoin their families at Christmas.
Berrien Springs, Michigan, proclaims itself as the pickle capital of the world. Each December, citizens throw a pickle festival. There is a parade where pickles are doled out by the Grand Dillmeister. There is a pickle museum in town and, of course, pickle ornaments are for sale.
Many different manufactures of Christmas ornaments from all over the world produce pickle ornaments in all different sizes. Some are very ornate in nature, while others are simple. All pickle ornaments are green, and most are made from colored glass.
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