If you spot a pickle among the ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree, congratulations are in order.
Here’s the deal (dill?): The tradition goes that on Christmas morning, the person that finds the pickle hidden in the branches either gets to be the first to open a present, receives a special gift or receives good fortune all year. The goal is to keep kids from rushing to the presents so that they can appreciate each gift.
The Christmas Pickle, or Weihnachtsgurke, supposedly has German origins, but the New York Times reported in 2016 that 91 percent of 2,057 polled Germans had never heard of the tradition attributed to them. (Read the survey here if you speak German.) The tradition is most popular in the Midwest United States; Berrien Springs, Michigan even hosted a Christmas Pickle Festival.
No one really knows the Christmas Pickle’s true origin, but the most likely explanation is that is was a marketing scheme from the late 1800s. Five-and-dime store Woolworths began importing German glass-blown ornaments shaped like fruit and nuts in the 1890s and possibly paired the tradition with the pickle ornaments in order to sell more of them — a far less exciting origin story than some other theories involving a starving prisoner surviving off of a pickle or St. Nicholas saving children from death by pickle barrel.
Regardless of its mysterious origin, the Christmas Pickle remains a popular ornament and can be found at retailers like Amazon, Target and World Market.