null Skip to main content Skip to footer content

Why is there a Pickle in the Christmas Tree?

To someone unfamiliar with the tradition, the sight of a pickle ornament hanging on a Christmas tree seems pretty strange. Ok, it’s green but…a pickle?

Rather than a trend created by foodies, it appears the Christmas pickle is a beloved, if quirky, German tradition. Or maybe not.

Is There Really a Pickle Ornament Tradition?

In fact, the history behind the pickle ornament is pretty murky. The tradition of  “Weihnachtsgurke,” (literally, “Christmas Eve cucumber,”)  is said to have originated in Germany. However, it seems very few Americans of German descent – and even fewer native Germans – are aware of the custom of hiding a glass pickle ornament inside the family Christmas tree.

Even so, pickle ornaments have managed to become the center of a fun game for many families over the last few generations. In fact, the Christmas pickle has been a popular-selling ornament for more than 30 years.

The Christmas pickle tradition goes something like this: Someone (usually a parent) hides the pickle ornament in the tree on Christmas Eve, after the children have gone to bed. On Christmas morning, the first child to spot the ornament gets either a special present or has first dibs at opening their presents. In some families, the finder has the honor of handing out the presents. The ornament is also said to convey good luck.

How Did the ‘Legend’ of the Christmas Pickle Ornament Begin?

If there is no historical evidence to support the tradition of the pickle ornament, how did the ‘legend’ begin?

There are several theories as to how the pickle Christmas tree ornament gained popularity. One reasonable explanation focuses on Woolworth’s department store, which began importing glass-blown ornaments from Germany in the 1880s. Early ornament motifs included common fruits and vegetables. It isn’t a stretch to conclude that German glass blowers would have modeled their ornaments on foods with which they were familiar – including pickles. It’s also possible that the humble green ornaments didn’t click right away with American consumers, who had their pick of other ornament styles.

A likely explanation is that Christmas pickle ornaments, which blended in with the green Christmas tree branches, became the focus of a clever marketing campaign to clear stock by promoting this “old world tradition” to new German immigrants – and the custom of hiding the pickle in the Christmas tree was born.

View our selection of pickle ornaments and start your own Christmas pickle tradition!