German Pickle Ornament Game

Timothy remembers a folk holiday tradition taught to him when he was growing up in Orange County, California. Although Timothy says he believes the tradition has been going on for awhile in his family, before he was even born, but his first memory of this tradition was when he was about 5 years old. He recalls, “My mom has a superstition – or, my family does. I guess it’s a German tradition, that ‘Santa’ hides an ornament shaped like a pickle in the tree. Every morning after Christmas when [Santa] hides it, whoever finds it gets an extra present. I learned it from my Mom’s side of the family. I have no idea why it’s a pickle. You can look it up online.”

Well, in fact, I did. It turns out the glass pickle ornament is traditionally hidden deep in the tree so the most observant child will find it, giving him good luck for the rest of the year. A trend I’ve noticed is that many people of my generation tend to participate in folklore without understanding why they are doing so. For Timothy, the point of the whole game was to get an extra present, not good luck. And while he didn’t even know why it was a pickle that was hidden, he did know it was German – and therefore part of his culture.

When I asked him what he thinks of the tradition, he said, “When I was a kid I loved it but now I get beat out every morning by my nieces and nephews. And [the gift is] usually something pretty small like candy and I don’t really eat candy anymore.” I think that the fact that Timothy never really understood the roots of the tradition helped him to distance himself from it now that he’s older. Also, perhaps learning that Santa wasn’t real as he grew older helped him to distance himself from Christmas games for the young.

Annotated: This tradition is also seen documented in

“german myth 11 – the german christmas pickle.” N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <>.