This is the Lore Behind the Famous Pickle Ornament

One of the best parts of being an adult during Christmastime is that you get to celebrate—and decorate!—any darn way you’d like! You can transform the outside of your home into a brightly-lit LED spectacular, send out cards with your animals’ faces on them, or even do nothing at all!

That said, our absolute favorite part of holiday decorating has to be prettying up the Christmas tree with dangling ornaments aplenty. We have delicate angels, pristine glass bulbs, and more than enough DIY beauties to go around!

One of the more interesting ornaments we have in our collection is a small, shiny pickle that must have been given to us as a gift some years ago. We’ve always made a place for it on our tree because a) it’s cute and b) we like pickles, but until recently, we had no idea that this odd ornament had quite the mystery attached to it.

The pickle ornament’s bizarre holiday history

The reason for including a pickle ornament on a Christmas tree usually varies depending on who you ask. The most common one stems from what is believed to be an old-world tradition that is essentially just a creative answer for the “can I open my present first?” conundrum that parents deal with every holiday.

Here’s how it goes: the pickle ornament is attached to a branch of the Christmas tree by an adult on the night of Christmas Eve.

When the kiddos wake up Christmas morning, they are instructed to carefully search the tree for the hidden pickle. The first child to find it either gets to open presents first, hand out the presents, or receive an extra present. There is even a variation stating that the winner will have good luck in the coming year.

The holiday game is called Weihnachtsgurke, or “Christmas Pickle.” It supposedly has German roots, but as it turns out, it’s more widely played in the American Midwest. In fact, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, a staggering 91% of German nationals claim to have never even heard of the game at all!

Historians believe that the game might have been falsely attributed to Deutschland because of a—surprise, surprise—brilliant holiday marketing technique.

Sometime around the 1880s, department store Woolworths began stocking their shelves with ornaments from Germany that were in the shapes of vegetables, with the pickles being amongst the top sellers.

No one is sure how exactly the Weihnachtsgurke game was created, but we’re willing to bet that a very creative department store salesman had something to do with it…

And there you have it folks—that’s why some people hang pickle ornaments from their Christmas trees. Who knew that an innocuous-looking decoration could have such an interesting backstory?

We’d love to hear your take on the classic pickle ornament! Do you hang one from your tree? If so, did you know that meaning behind it? Do you follow another pickle ornament tradition that you would like to share?