Tag Archives: ornament

Hidden Pickle – Christmas Game

Description of Informant

NM (49) is a Massachusetts native living in California. He commits to a regular exercise routine and owns/operates a metal decking supply firm. NM enjoys strategy games, world news/current events, and participates in a weekly chess match with friends.



Hidden Pickle is a family-oriented hunt-style game, reminiscent of an Easter Egg hunt. The game master, usually an adult or the host, will hide a pickle-shaped ornament on the Christmas tree. The players, usually children, will then scour the branches. The first individual to find the ornament delivers it to the game master in exchange for a prize. For NM, the prize has always been a Christmas tree ornament. The challenge comes from the green pickle camouflaging among the green branches.

Context of Use

Hidden Pickle is played during Christmas time, when the home and tree are fully decorated. NM has always played Pickle on Christmas Eve, though he has adjusted to Christmas Day to accommodate guest’s schedules. The game is not the main event of the celebration.


Context of Interview

The informant, NM, is met in his garden by the collector, BK, his nephew. They speak poolside.


BK: Can you describe the rules of this game?

NM: Yeah, well, so the rules with [my mother] were: the pickle is hidden somewhere in that tree. And, and you know, I’m a little bit– with, with you guys, and because it’s open to such little kids in our situation, I tried to put it in a position that you don’t need to move the branches because I don’t want a bunch of shuffling and whatnot. But we were– since we were introduced to it as adults… There were definitely– she definitely had it in places where you needed to do some light moving in the tree. So, but yeah, we weren’t we were, we were pretty crazy. But we were gentle. So it went to the tree and then and then there were several years where the tree just did not have good hiding places. So then she would just put it in the Christmas tree room somewhere. But usually, I’m able to find someplace in the tree for, for, for our purposes, that it’s hidden enough, but I think she thought we needed more of a challenge where it could be in the tree, but it also could be somewhere in the room. But yeah, no real rules other than whoever found it gets the, gets the pickle. And, and if it happens back-to-back years… Good for you!

BK: What type of prizes are offered?

NM: She’s introduced it always as a Christmas tree ornament. So I yeah, that’s what I– that’s, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. It’s probably– Yeah. Now that you’re asking, I’m gonna have to Google it and see what other people do. Because it never even occurred to me to see what the– what other rules were.

BK: What my immediate guess is, is wherever this started, whether or not it was a pickle, there was a green, edible thing that must have been hidden in the tree. And I bet the prize was eating the treat. So the prize was getting to eat the thing that you found.

NM: That’s not a bad theory.

Collector’s Reflection

With a bit of research, the Christmas pickle’s confusing past gets even more convoluted. NM’s assumption of German origin seems to be widely held, however, several possible origins are posted across the internet, from a starving Civil War veteran to a Spanish Innkeeper. A prominent suggestion is that the game is actually fakelore! That is to say, it was created to promote the import of glass-blown ornaments from Europe into America in the 1890s. 

Regardless, the game seems to be broadly recognized in the United States; NM mentioned a friend had seen a pickle ornament in a shopping mall Christmas display. My theory, that perhaps the ornament is a stand-in for an edible treat, seems to hold no water. But I’ll echo NM, I didn’t think it was too bad of a theory!

For another description and some origin theories for Hidden Pickle, please see:

“Why do some people hang ornaments that look like pickles on their Christmas trees?”. Tampa Bay Magazine: 91. November–December 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2021.

LINK: https://books.google.com/books?id=gwdRUx4dNA4C&lpg=PA91&vq=Christmas%20pickle&pg=PA91#v=snippet&q=Christmas%20pickle&f=false

A “Non-Christmas” Christmas

Informant Info: The informant is a 21-year-old male who was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His parents both moved to America from India when they were in their twenties. He is currently a student at USC studying Electrical Engineering.


Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: I remember you mentioning going home for Christmas last year. Can I ask what your family does to celebrate Christmas?


Interviewee: We don’t do anything for Christmas religiously, but we do get into the spirit of it. We will put up trees, lights, ornaments on the trees, you know all the usual. My brother always makes an ornament every year. But then… we just leave and go somewhere else ironically… Like we’ll come out to Santa Monica and stay with my cousin because my parent’s like the warmer weather. We don’t really do presents or anything of that nature. To us, it’s mostly just about spending time together with the family.



This isn’t that surprising, given that the informant’s parents are both from India and are not Christian. However, growing up in a very Christian town (and country) they have adopted some of the traits of Christmas that aren’t associated with religion. I find it interesting that above all else, family bonding is always the most important Christmas tradition across the board.

Christmas Tradition

Informant H is 19 years old and was born in Inglewood CA, and moved to a place near Valencia just outside of LA soon after she was born. After 5 years, her little sister was born, then her little brother, and then her youngest sister. The family then moved to Bakersfield. H homeschooled for many years and then transitioned into a public high school.

H: So in my family, I guess it started when we moved to Bakersfield, so we had to start over basically, so we had to get a new tree, and like new decorations. So we started this tradition where every Christmas we go and like as a family, my mom, my dad, me, my little sister, my little brother, and my youngest sister, so as a family we go and we find, in our city, a Christmas ornament and everyone gets to pick one Christmas ornament. And we do that every year and now our Christmas tree has so many ornaments on it because we’ve been there for about 10 years and so that is something we do every year.

Me: So do people pick the same type of ornament? Do you have like a style like ‘oh I pick the dancer ornaments…’

H: I guess my littlest sister…she always picks stuff like sparkly or pink so you know those are her ornaments. My brother picks like shiny cars and dinosaurs. So I guess we all sort of pick stuff that reflects our personality maybe what were interested in at the time. Like I have one that’s a cowboy boot from when I rode horses.

Me: So does it serve anything more practical than just oh we need to get ornaments for our tree?

H: Oh definitely it’s something we can depend on for Christmas time being together and we do this together as a family. And also it’s our tree in our house and all these ornaments aren’t random we hand selected each and every one, and they reflect us.

Me: So in a way when you look at your tree you can see your family…that’s really cool do people ever comment on the ornaments?

H: Oh definitely people are like ‘oh that’s a cute ornament’. And were like ‘oh there’s a story behind that’.

Me: So do a lot of the ornaments have these individual stories with them?

H: Um a lot of them do I know a couple fights were started over a couple ornaments.

Me: Care to share any fun stories about any of them any of the fights…?

H: Okay well there is this one this chandelier ornament it’s silvery and it has crystals on it. So we were going to the place, I think it was World Market, and my little sister saw it and she was like ‘Oh that’s like a cool ornament’, and she keeps walking because she wants to keep her options open. And then my other sister sees it and she’s like ‘oh my gosh I want this ornament so much’ and then my youngest one obviously plays the whole, ‘I’m cute I’m the youngest I should get this ornament’. And then the older sister was like ‘I should get this ornament because you always get the sparkly ornaments’ and the littlest one said ‘No I should get this ornament because I always get the sparkly ornaments’. And just like so much chaos. And eventually my little sister broke into tears and we’re like ‘it’s Christmas time you can have the sparkly chandelier ornament’ so there’s always this like bitterness when it’s time to pull out the sparkly ornament. And they always fight about who gets to put it on the tree. It’s very ridiculous. I think it’s hilarious.

Me: That’s so funny, do you all put your own ornaments on the tree?

H: We do. Sometimes people will forget because there’s so many, people like forget which ornaments are theirs, so like fights ensue because of that.

Me: I’m sure it still brings all you together though.

H: It does it’s fun times.

Me: Is it sort of interesting being away at college now? Are you the oldest?

H: I’m the oldest.

Me: So does that change any of the dynamic? Do they have to go pick ornaments without you one day? Because I know I usually get home right before Christmas, is that ever a problem…?

H: Well sometimes they have to put up the tree without me but sometimes, I think last year, they left all my ornaments there. Or they wait for me to come home so we get all of our ornaments together. So yeah they definitely want to make it a whole family.

Me: So sweet. Do you guys go to the same place every year?

H: Yeah we usually go to World Market, but sometimes we go to other places but they always have awesome really cool individualized ornaments.



H’s family definitely emphasizes them being together to celebrate this holiday with their own special family tradition. Even though an argument might have come from it, this tradition serves to bring her family closer together, especially now that she is living away from home. The tree is a way to express themselves all individually while still celebrating their family as a whole.  This tradition might be even more important for their family as their children start moving away from home to go to college, so this tradition of coming home for Christmas and doing this tradition as a family might become more special over the years.

White Horse Ornament

“Your mom always lets me hang up my horse on the tree. She always puts up the tree and decorate the tree, but the horse is always left for me. She always had the brown horse and I always had the white horse, and so leaving the white horse always left me contributing to the tree just a little bit, so we could still do it together.”

This is a tradition enacted in the informant’s household every year since he was married in 1981. The informant and his wife would always want to decorate the tree together, but over the years when she quit her job to take care of their children, she often would decorate the tree at some time during the week while they were at work. Because it was a tradition that they decorate the tree together in preparation for Christmas, she always left him the white horse as a way for him to participate in decorating the tree (other than aiding in bringing the tree into their house). The white horse was important to them because they got the horses as a set, and therefore had meaning to them as a couple rather than just as individual ornaments. Tree decoration is a family activity, and this tradition has spawned so that everyone in the family always has at least one ornament that they put on the tree themselves if they will be there for that year’s Christmas.