Christmas Pickle: History of Your New Favorite Tradition

Christmas pickle hanging on tree

If you're looking for a fun new holiday tradition, you may want to consider learning more about the history of Christmas pickles.The Christmas pickle is not an actual pickle, but a pickle-shaped Christmas ornament that is hidden on a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, all of the children in the house take turns looking for the pickle ornament and the child who finds the Christmas pickle receives an extra present for his or her hard work.

Christmas Pickle Tradition

While finding the Christmas pickle is certainly an enjoyable holiday ritual, nobody seems to know exactly where this tradition began; however, there are plenty of theories to consider.

A German Tradition

Although it is commonly stated that the Christmas pickle tradition began in Germany, facts don't support this theory. The German Way's website notes that the German St. Nick arrives on the 5th or 6th of December and German children open their presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. Additionally, many Germans say they have never heard of this custom.

The Andersonville Pickle

An alternate theory regarding the history of Christmas pickles attributes the custom to Civil War solider John Lower. After being captured and sent to prison in Andersonville, Georgia, his health took a turn for the worse. As he was starving and near death, he begged the prison guard for one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him, giving Mr. Lower a pickle that he later claimed gave him the physical and mental strength to continue living. When he returned to his family after the war, Mr. Lower began hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree to bring fortune and good luck to the one who found it on Christmas morning.

Christmas pickle on red background

The Christmas Pickle Capital of the World

Today, Berrien Springs, Michigan calls itself the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. This town celebrates with a Christmas Pickle Festival held in early December and a parade led by a Grand Dillmeister, who gives the visitors fresh pickles.

A Tradition Based on a Spanish Story?

According to, the tradition actually may have originated from a story about some Spanish boys traveling home from boarding school for the holidays. They were stuffed into a pickle barrel by a mean innkeeper and later freed when St. Nicholas took pity on them and freed them. There is also a darker version of the story, but this first one is more befitting of the tradition.

Buy a Christmas Pickle Ornament

If learning about the history of Christmas pickles has inspired you to incorporate this fun tradition into your own holiday celebration, you can buy a pickle ornament from one of the following websites:

  • The German Christmas Market offers a large glass pickle ornament. It is made and painted by hand, and is approximately four inches tall.
  • Bronner's Christmas Wonderland sells several pickle ornaments in their enormous Christmas shop. They offer minature pickles, ones with Santa hats, and you can even get one of these ornaments in its own pickle jar. You can also purchase these ornaments on their website.
  • Oriental Trading Company has a set of Christmas pickle ornaments that come with cards describing this fun holiday tradition. Keep one for yourself and give the rest as gifts for family and friends.
  • Mummble Jummble2 has instructions for making a handmade knitted Christmas pickle ornament.

Christmas Pickle Recipe

In some families, the Christmas pickle tradition is taken a step further by serving pickles at the holiday meal. If you're looking for a great Christmas pickle recipe, Recipe Land describes how to make pickles with red food coloring and cinnamon sticks.

A Whimsical Holiday Tradition

You can add whimsy and cheer to your holiday traditions by adding a Christmas pickle to your holiday tree.The tradition encourages children to take time to appreciate all of the beautiful ornaments on the Christmas tree. Instead of simply rushing to open their presents, they spend time talking about the unique history of all the holiday decorations.

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Christmas Pickle: History of Your New Favorite Tradition