The Christmas pickle is something that you are guaranteed to stumble upon, when searching the internet for German Christmas decorations. Pinterest is full of pictures of cucumber on trees and is shared there as a German tradition. A reader inspired me to write about this topic and I like to follow this wish.
What is the Christmas Pickle?
The Christmas pickle, made of glass, as a Christmas tree decoration. Mostly one receives with the purchase also enclosed the explanation, how this tradition in Germany is celebrated. In Germany, one of these Christmas cucumbers is to be hidden on the tree, according to the leaflet. Who finds the cucumber then, gets an extra gift.
Is the christmas pickle a German Tradition?
I am German, but this custom was completely unknown to me when I was still living in Germany.
Only in the USA, when I searched for German traditions in Pinterest, did I find descriptions for the first time. Well, I’m from Bavaria, Christmas traditions are regionally different, I thought to myself. So I asked friends and even started two surveys on Facebook. But finally it turned out that this custom was almost unknown in Germany. Only one German told me, that she had spoken to a German over 80 years old, who would know this custom from World War II. Then I googled once again, but unfortunately found nothing concrete.
If this custom really comes from Germany and has just got forgoten, then I suspect that this was the case only in a small region. The irony of this story is that the custom of the Christmas cucumber is now spilling from the US to Germany. More and more Germans now, have a cucumber on the Christmas tree and in some generations, this will probably be a German custom.
Where does the traditon come from?
There are some theories about this, none of which can be confirmed with certainty.
The German Union soldier in captivity
Legend has it that the Union soldier of German descent, John Lower, was ill in captivity. Near death, he asked for food and one of the guards sympathized and gave him a pickle. Whereupon John recovered and survived. John started this tradition to always remember.
Only for a child gifts
In the past, poor families in Germany did not have enough money to give each child a gift. There was only money for a present. So the tradition of the Christmas pickle was started. The child who found the cucumber got the gift.
Lauscha glass jewelery and Woolworths
In the town of Lauscha in Germany, among other things, fruits and presumably cucumbers made of glass were produced in glassblowing. These were also imported to the US and distributed by Woolworths.
This post is for the advent calendar of living in the US. You will find even more interesting articles about Christmas in the USA and the homeland.
Visit one of the German Christmas Markets in the USA for more German Christmas things.