Did Pickle Ornaments Start With An Illinois Civil War Soldier?
If you've never seen or heard of a pickle ornament, I apologize. That headline has got to be one of the weirdest things you've read in quite awhile.
If you are familiar with pickle ornaments...it's still pretty weird, I know.
So When Did The Christmas Pickle Ornament Become An Actual Thing?
See, here the thing with that. No one seems to know for sure exactly when or where the idea of hanging a pickle in your Christmas tree came from. I first heard about it nearly 30 years ago, in the early 90s.
At that time, it was introduced to me by a friend who said that he and his wife like to play "hide the pickle" on Christmas Eve. If that sounds semi-dirty to you, it's okay, it's supposed to.
He then explained that they hide a pickle ornament in their tree, then on Christmas morning, whichever one of their kids finds the pickle first gets an extra present. He said it's an old German tradition.
Except That Nearly No One In Germany Has Ever Heard Of It
USAToday.com says that in December of 2016, a YouGov survey found that 91 percent of Germans had never heard of the 'Weihnachtsgurke' (Christmas Pickle), let alone had one in their own homes.
Another take on it, according to a box containing a Christmas pickle ornament, is that the tradition began when a German immigrant in Illinois fought as a Union Soldier in the Civil War. According to WhyChristmas.com:
The story features a fighter in the American Civil War who was born in Bavaria (an area of what is now Germany). He was a prisoner, and starving, he begged a guard for one last pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and gave a pickle to him. The pickle gave him the mental and physical strength to live on!
Supposedly, after returning home, the solider began the tradition of hanging a pickle on his family’s tree each Christmas Eve. No mention of the German immigrant/soldier having anything to do with Illinois in that piece, or in anything else I could find on the origins of the Christmas pickle.