The Christmas Pickle: A Christmas Tradition

Original Text:

INFORMANT: “We do it at my own house, like the one that I live at, and then we also do it at my grandparent’s house. At my grandparent’s house, it’s a little bit more of a tradition because we all go there on Christmas day to celebrate. Before everyone arrives, only my dad hides the Christmas pickle in the tree.”

COLLECTOR: “Is it a real pickle?”

INFORMANT: No, it’s an ornament. But its the same ornament we have had forever. Its glass and shiny so it fits in with all the other ornaments. But, before everyone gets there, my grandfather hides it in the tree somewhere and he’s very good at it. And he never tells anyone where it is. And then we all get there on Christmas day, and when we are doing our presents after dinner on Christmas day, he usually announces that the pickle is in the tree and that there will be a prize for the first person to find it. There’s no time limit, but people start looking right away. Sometimes we can find it really fast, and sometimes we can’t. And then usually its my aunt who finds it, but last year I found it and it was a cash prize and snacks. Like 25 bucks. It’s fun, I don’t know.” 

Context: The informant is 19 years old and studies Theater at USC. Her and her family are of mixed European descent, and they have lived in Salem, Virginia for decades. The informant is not religious, but her family is Christian.  She learned the Christmas pickle tradition from her grandparents. She enjoys this tradition because “hiding the pickle and searching for it is childish, but it’s accepted and it gives you the opportunity to have young innocent fun”. She hates that “as you grow up, being a child becomes less and less acceptable”, but the tradition of the pickle is “a way to keep the holiday spirit alive”.

Analysis: The Christmas pickle tradition is rumored to original from Germany, but that theory has been disproven. Although Christmas is a secular holiday for many, the informants family is Christian, and having a fun tradition like the Christmas pickle is a way to bring the family closer together on this holy day. The fact that it takes place in her grandparents house allows for the different generations in the informants family to connect. In the rural town of Salem, Virginia, there isn’t a large mall with a Santa or a Christmas parade in the city to go to every year. Families are more inclined to make special traditions at home to keep the magic alive. The patriarch of the family, the informants grandfather, always has the privilege of hiding the pickle. The practice of searching for a magical object for a prize like the Christmas pickle mirrors other Christian holiday traditions like Easter eggs.