Informant: On Christmas, my family hides a pickle on the Christmas tree. All of us kids—all the children have to find it. Like we look for it on the tree, and the person who does gets a special prize.
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California who is originally from South Bend, Indiana. She is an active member at the USC Caruso Catholic Center. She informed me that the “pickle in the Christmas tree” was a tradition she learned from her mother, who learned it from her father, who learned it from his mother—a German immigrant.
This is the second account of the Christmas pickle tradition that I collected. While the first informant told me “Santa” was responsible for hiding the pickle Christmas night, this informant explained that her parents were responsible for hiding the pickle—a fact which all the children participating were aware of. The informant also told me that the “special prize” in question was usually something small and sweet to eat.
To see the first Christmas pickle account, see Christmas Pickle – I.
Informant: Our family has a pickle ornament we leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve, and then when Santa comes, he hides it on the tree and the first person to find it in the morning gets to open the first present. I always thought it was weird, but apparently there’s some German cultural thing behind it. I don’t know, my dad’s family does it.
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from Florida, and has younger siblings who also participate in the “pickle hunt.”
The tradition of hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree is a well-documented one, although several sources claim that the practice didn’t originate in Germany, as many claim, but is instead an American invention. Nevertheless, the arguably German pickle-hiding has many variations. In most, an ornament resembling a pickle is hidden in the tree, sometimes by parents and sometimes by St. Nick (or “Santa”). On Christmas morning, the children of the house will search the tree; whoever finds the pickle receives some kind of prize—candy, an extra present, the right to be the first to open a present, et cetera. Oddly enough, another informant I interviewed also told me about her family’s Christmas pickle tradition, which varies slightly from this one.
To see the second Christmas pickle account, see Christmas Pickle – II.
Citation: “Legend of the Pickle.” County Fair Pickles. County Fair Food Products, 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Every year at Christmas after his family has decorated the Christmas tree, my informants mother will hide a pickle shaped Christmas Ornament on the tree. The first of the children to find the ornament, and bring it to her, gets a special present from her.
My informants mother (who is the active bearer in his family for this tradition) is German, however he is not sure where this tradition originated. There are a number of possible explanations, including simply the fact that the green of the pickle ornament is hard to find amongst the green of a pine tree, and the fact that sending children on a search for a phallic object may be preparing them, at least on some level, for the sexual encounters they will have in the future. In any case, my informant just enjoys competing with his siblings for a chance at an extra present at Christmas time.