If you've ever spotted a pickle ornament hanging from someone's Christmas tree you probably found it a bit odd, but it's part of a Christmas tradition that's actually pretty fun. And no, it has nothing to do with a pickle barrel.
On Christmas Eve, parents hide the pickle ornament somewhere on the tree. Whichever child spots it first on Christmas morning gets to open the first present. Additionally, whoever finds the ornament will have good luck for a year.
Another version of this Christmas ornament tradition says that whoever spots the pickle first gets an extra present. Whether you'd rather promote guaranteed good fortune get the family excited about extra gifts, there's no doubt the Christmas pickle tradition sounds like fun.
According to Tampa Bay Magazine, the tradition is said to have started in Germany, but this is unlikely to be true since modern Germans do not practice it. This is a common American misconception, believing that the pickle ornaments are known locally to Germans as "weihnachtsgurke". Many glass pickle ornaments are made in Germany, but they are for export, not for the local market.
Instead, it's likely that the story started as a marketing ploy to sell German glass ornaments to Americans. F.W. Woolworth, the five-and-dime store magnate, began importing the ornaments in 1880. He sold them along with a card that told the story of the tradition.
If that's the case, it wouldn't be the first Christmas tradition that started with marketing. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (maybe you've heard of him, he saved Santa's sleigh) originated as an advertising campaign by now-defunct department store Montgomery Ward.
As for the Christmas pickle ornament, it's mainly popular in Midwestern states, but it has been picking up steam all over the country. Any tradition that leads to more Christmas gifts and good luck all year is bound to catch on.
If this sounds like a fun holiday tradition to you, you can get one here on Amazon.
This article was originally published in 2017.