A Christmas pickle nestled in between other tree ornaments. Lisa Dusseault / CC by 2.0

Each December, millions of civilization dust off Christmas ornaments and also hang castle on their corresponding trees. They closely place glass baubles and string lights and choose between novelty ornaments. And also a little percentage of this people, adhering to a German tradition, hang a Christmas pickle, or Weihnachtsgurke.

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They don’t just hang a pickle ornament, though. Pendant of this legacy hide the tiny, green pickle within the tree’s countless branches. ~ above Christmas morning, the an initial child to discover the pickle receives secondary gift, or the privilege of opening the an initial present. Part parents also dole out money. Atlas Obscura’s very own Tyler Cole thrived up in a armed forces family, and also lived in Germany twice. His mother picked increase the tradition and also hides the pickle every year. To this day, the finder receives 5 dollars.

But this supposedly German tradition, which is specifically popular in the Midwestern unified States, is regularly met with raised eyebrows through Germans. “In college German class, i smugly told my teacher that ns knew Germans had actually a Christmas pickle tradition, and also she had no idea what ns was talking about,” Cole says. “At the time, i chalked it up to my negative German, however it can be due to the fact that Germans likewise don’t carry out this pickle thing.”

A Christmas pickle ~ above the Coles’ Christmas tree. Tyler Cole because that Atlas Obscura

It seems that Germans don’t execute the pickle point at all. Cole says the pickle is difficult to discover in areas where one would suppose it come be common (such as the Berlin Christmas market). Within Germany, it’s so puzzling that German newspapers have actually published posts explaining this tradition that’s supposedly theirs. In fact, a 2016 survey found that 91 percent of Germans had never heard of the Christmas pickle, and only 2 percent celebrated it. For this reason if it didn’t come indigenous Germany, wherein did it come from?

One legend holds the the legacy started v John lower in the 19th century. A Bavarian soldier fighting in the American polite War, Lower dropped deathly ill if being organized at the Andersonville prison Camp. Close to his deathbed, he asked for a pickle, a request the cured him entirely. After ~ that, reduced hung a pickle native his Christmas tree every year.

Another id holds that negative families in Spreewald, Germany, a region known for its pickles, once hung lock on their Christmas trees in the absence of various other accoutrements.

A pickle before it’s hung on the tree. Christbaumschmuck der Firma Inge-Glas / CC BY-SA 3.0

The most plausible explanation, though, is that the Christmas pickle was arisen in the late 1800s together a marketing tool. Woolworths started importing glass baubles and other decorations native German towns such together Lauscha. Selling a legend proved far simpler than selling simply a decorate vegetable.

But inhabitants of Berrien Springs, Michigan—the Christmas pickle funding of the world—may tell friend a much more whimsical story, which days the Christmas pickle to the center Ages. 2 Spanish guys headed home during the holidays stopped at one inn for the night. Inexplicably, the the personality is bad innkeeper stuffed the 2 boys right into a pickle barrel. When St. Nicholas (a forebear the Santa Claus) coincidentally popped by that really same inn, the sensed trouble, tapped on the barrel v his staff, and rescued the 2 boys from gift pickled to death.

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Whatever the explanation, the Christmas pickle legacy lives top top in tree near and also far. Also Germans seem to be warming up to this amusing tradition. As the Hamburger Morgenpost put it: “Although it appears a little curious to hang a glass cucumber in between tinsel and straw stars, plenty of German families have now recognized the advantage: The yearly ‘Who-may-first-open-a-gift’ conversation is dropped ....”

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