STRANGE TRADITIONS RUN deep in any family, but few are as odd as that of the Christmas Pickle. The original legend says that 19th century German parents customarily hid a pickle on the Christmas tree. It was said to be the last ornament hung, buried within the boughs. The first child to find it on Christmas morning got an extra present from Weihnachtsmann, aka Father Christmas. It’s a warm legend, but it may be untrue: few native Germans have ever heard the story. Another tale has a Civil War prisoner in Georgia begging for a pickle from a guard.
The snack saved his life and when he returned from war, he immortalized the pickle by starting a tradition. Yet a third legend was possibly started by Berrien Springs, Mich., the Christmas Pickle capital of the world: they claim the tradition started with two Spanish boys entrapped in a pickle barrel, saved by St. Nicholas in time for Christmas. The ultimate explanation may be even easier: some believe that a group of salesmen merely had a lot of unsold pickle ornaments left and created an instant “legend.”