Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She started participating in the tradition after she was married and her three children were born. Since her children are now older, she also has her children’s romantic partners participate in the children – and grandchildren one day.
Context: The context of the piece was in the informant’s house. The information opened a cabinet and found the pickle sitting inside – leftover from being taken off the tree back in December. She gave a sound of surprise, laughed, and mentioned how it always happens each year without fail.
TC: “Well, every single year we hang up the pickle on the tree. Typically, me and my husband will wake up early in the morning, around 5 or 6 am, and spread a while trying to find the perfect hiding spot. We make sure nobody can enter the living room [where the tree is] to make sure there is no cheating in finding the pickle, until everyone is awake.
Me: Why did you start hanging the pickle?
TC: I never did it when I was younger but I heard about from friends and thought it would be a fun way to start Christmas morning. As a lot of my traditions, I think it’s Germanic but… that was an accident [laughs]. I wanted to… do a little more than just opening presents and stockings, and it brought the kids in for a game.
Me: Will you keep doing it?
TC; I want my children, their partners, my grandchildren – everyone to participate in it. So, yes, I do plan to keep hanging the pickle up, though we may have to get a bigger tree.
Me: That sounds fun. So, what does someone get when they find the pickle?
TC: As with hanging the pickle, my husband and I always shop together and find the weirdest gift we can and buy it as the “pickle gift”. Let me think, one year, we had something with My Little Pony; we had a spiky rubber ball; this year it was a mind game, where you had to figure out how to get all the colors on the same side, similar to a Rubik’s cube. It’s honestly a fun tradition for us also to go shopping for the pickle gift.
Informant: To the information, the pickle is a sign of family strength. The pickle adds a fun element to the beginning of Christmas and allows her to have fun as well.
Mine: The pickle emphasizes globalization and how traditions can widely spread, even if their original root is unknown. I don’t believe traditions can only be celebrated if they stick true to their origins but can change and evolve as time passes, they aren’t supposed to be stagnant. As in the case of the pickle, it has evolved to fit modern times – it’s utilized to bring families together, inspire sibling friendship, and it’s meant to be utter fun. Also, it showcases how one tradition can inspire other new ones. The informant finds it a yearly ritual to go shopping with her husband, an event that strengthens their bond. Each tradition, in this way, is connected in a spiderweb in inspiring and creating other ones.