What’s the Dill?: Deciphering the Christmas Pickle Tradition

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Tony Maples Photography


Christmas has several traditions. Some seem natural, like singing carols, but others are more unusual. The Christmas pickle fits into the latter category. At first glance, it does not seem to make sense. What do pickles have to do with Christmas? But, many families hide a glass pickle ornament in their trees each year, following the tradition. Whether or not this is part of your family’s holiday tradition, discover the origins of this unusual ornament.

What is a Christmas Pickle?

Christmas pickle

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Each year, families celebrate this tradition by hiding a pickle-shaped ornament on the Christmas tree. According to the practice, the first to find the ornament gets luck or an extra gift designated for the finder. This provides incentive to search carefully, though it’s not as easy as it looks. Both the ornament and the tree are green, and finding the pickle can be hard for children and adults.

Where Did It Come From?

Woolworths popularlized the Christmas pickle in the US

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though some attribute the origins of the Christmas pickle to Germany, if you ask modern Germans, they’ve never heard of such a thing. Quite possibly, the practice came about as a way to promote the glasswork of Germany, which included unusually shaped ornaments. Woolworths began promoting these when the company started selling them in the United States.

While the actual birth of the pickle tradition may sadden some who believe it to be a long-held heritage by their forefathers from Europe instead of a marketing ploy, they should not be too concerned. Americans have been hiding pickle ornaments in their Christmas trees since 1890, so it’s possible that it’s been a multigenerational tradition that’s purely American.

Where is the Practice Popular?

Christmas Pickle Ornament in a Tree

Photo: Flickr/Robin Zebrowski

For more than 100 years, Americans have held to the tradition of the Christmas pickle, but this practice is much more popular in some parts of the country than in others. In fact, some in the United States have never adopted the tradition. For the center of the excitement, visit Berrien Springs, Michigan. This town of 2000 earned the title of Christmas Pickle Capital of the World from the organization Pickle Packers International. It fully embraces this title with an annual Christmas festival. But, you don’t have to live in Michigan to enjoy the pickle tradition at Christmas. If you haven’t already done so, try it out this year, for a little extra holiday fun.