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The Mysterious Tradition of the Christmas Pickle

In the American Midwest, some families follow the old tradition of hanging a Christmas pickle (Weihnachtsgurke) from the tree, hidden deep in the branches. It's often an heirloom glass ornament. On Christmas morning, the first child who finds the pickle gets an extra gift, or is allowed to open the first present, or receives other honor. The Christmas pickle is a tradition their ancestors brought from Germany. Or is it? Germans are often surprised to hear the story.

It seems that Germans don’t do the pickle thing at all. Cole says the pickle is hard to find in places where one would expect it to be ubiquitous (such as the Berlin Christmas market). Within Germany, it’s so puzzling that German newspapers have published articles explaining this tradition that’s supposedly theirs. In fact, a 2016 survey found that 91 percent of Germans had never heard of the Christmas pickle, and only two percent celebrated it. So if it didn’t come from Germany, where did it come from?

There are several plausible explanations for the tradition of the Christmas pickle you can read at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Christbaumschmuck der Firma Inge-Glas)


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