What is the German Christmas Pickle really? The History

christmas pickle german christmas

german christmas pickle

Let's talk about  a "German" tradition that is in fact somewhat unreal, still in the USA it is known to be a German tradition.  
It's the story of the Christmas pickle. Today I heard the first time about it and, as of German origin, I was frowning my forehead when I looked at the Christmas pickle.
So I started to do some research to find out myself if this is a myth, a lie or a legend about the German Christmas pickle.
While doing this research I discovered that it supposed to be a German tradition. Really? It must be a tradition I have never heard about...
First thoughts were it might be an Eastern or Northern Christmas thing but somehow it didn't feel right.


What is the German Christmas Pickle really?

In German it would be called a "Weihnachtsgurke" which I consider a somewhat inadequate name. Let's look at the story: 
It is simply a Christmas ornament that looks like a pickle and will be hidden in the Christmas tree. The first child that finds the green pickle Christmas morning will get an extra gift, or it also means good fortune, or in German Glück. The last one sounds more like a Chinese tradition to me.

There is a city in Michigan named Berrien Springs, to be known as the "pickle capitol of the world". They hold a yearly pickle festival in early December and even have a pickle parade. This is not surprising because cucumber plantations and selling pickles makes their business but what does this have to do with Christmas? In fact, nothing. Does it have anything to do with Germany? Not at all. But wait, it gets even more interesting.

Americans believe that this Christmas fun originated in Germany, and some even say that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations from Germany.  The first company to import these types of decorations like glass blown vegetables, into the United States in 1890, were imported from France (1892 and onwards). That sounds like a good story and the question occurs, why isn't France the originator of the Christmas pickle tradition? No, it has to be Germany.

And last but not least here is the prove that it is a German invention:
One suggested origin has been that the tradition came from Camp Sumter during the American Civil War. The Bavarian-born Private John C. Lower had enlisted in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, but was captured in April 1864 and taken to the prison camp. As the story is told, on Christmas Eve he begged a guard for a pickle whilst starving. The guard provided the pickle, which Lower later credited for saving his life. After returning to his family, he began a tradition of hiding a pickle on their Christmas tree each year.

This is really a sweet story. Now what do Germans think about this tradition? Germans who were born and raised in Germany? Let's do a survey!

A survey on my Facebook page of www.Mybestgermanrecipes.com was conducted about the German Christmas Pickle myth.
The questions were: True or False? The majority commented with a clear answer: No, it is not a German tradition.

That was in 2012. Now in 2019 another survey will be launched (just for fun). If you like you can check out the comments yourself and make sure to like the page :)
In case you really like to get such an ornament there is a way to get it on Amazon.

Need another special Christmas Gift? Maybe the German Christmas Box is just the right gift...