My family had this tradition of hiding a pickle ornament in our Christmas tree every year, and on Christmas morning my siblings and I would race to see who could find it first. I grew up believing that this was a German custom passed down from my ancestors to me through my mother’s side of the family. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that this might not be the truth. There are conflicting accounts of whether the “Christmas pickle” really came from Germany, or whether it was invented around the time that Woolworth stores were importing German ornaments. What we know for sure is that Woolworth sold ornaments in the shapes of various fruits and vegetables, and that during this time the pickle “tradition” was shared with the United States.
It doesn’t matter if the heritage of my family’s custom is authentic or artificial. What is important is that we grew up partaking in an unusual tradition that gave my Christmas experience growing up a unique flair. A tradition doesn’t have to be centuries old or even “real” to be valuable; “Festivus” is a secular holiday that was introduced on the show Seinfeld in 1997, and many people still celebrate it as an alternative to Christmas.
This December, I encourage you to learn more about the traditions surrounding Christmas and other seasonal holidays that you may have celebrated as a child. The origins of these customs just might surprise you.