Deck the halls with boughs of... pickles? Yes, you read that right. Pickles. This sour, but tasty snack is often hanging on Christmas trees, including my own. No, they're not real pickles hanging on my Christmas tree, but I have a glass and plastic pickle ornament, hanging among the tinsel and string lights. But it's not because my family and I are huge fans of pickles—it's a Christmas pickle tradition.

The History Behind The Christmas Pickle

Elizabeth Olsen

Hanging a pickle ornament on a Christmas tree is an old tradition that seems to have more than one origin. It was once thought to be a German tradition, which required hiding a pickle ornament in the tree on Christmas Eve. Hung high, low or in the middle—the pickle is hidden away from eager hands. In the morning, everyone in the family rushes down to find the pickle. Whoever finds the ornament first usually gets an extra present, the first present, or good luck for the following year.

However, that theory was later debunked in a report by the New York Times when asurvey showed that barely anyone in Germany had actually heard about this tradition. For those Germans who have heard the story—many of them glass ornament makers—they've used the story to sell more pickle ornaments. It's great marketing. 

But as for the truth? No one actually knows, but there are a few more theories. Some think that during the American Civil War, a war prisoner (who was a German immigrant) was starving and a guard gave him a pickle. The pickle ended up saving the prisoner and gave him the power to keep fighting through the time of war. But, not sure where the pickle lands on the Christmas tree in this one. 

Others believe the legend of the pickle is connected to St. Nicholas, who according to Tampa Bay Magazine, found two young boys trapped in a pickle barrel and set them free.

And a third story, according to Country Living, reveals that in the 1840s, German glassblowers made ornaments shaped like fruit, possibly including pickles. In the late 1880s, F. W. Woolworth Company (an American company) started importing the ornaments and using the story to sell the pickles.

However none of these stories are for certain, and the first two definitely don't add up. Each leaves the Christmas Pickle Legend an unsolved mystery. 

The Real Tradition

Elizabeth Olsen

Even though there is no real legitimate backstory on the Legend of the Christmas Pickle, families all over the world follow the tradition of hanging a pickle ornament on their Christmas Tree. 

In my house, its just a fight to put up the ornaments, let alone find it. No one gets an extra present, but there is bragging rights for whoever puts up the ornaments. Usually I lose and end up putting away the ornaments when Christmas is over. 

There are no strict rules to the Christmas pickle tradition; you can put your own spin on it like we do. Because most of all, it's just a fun tradition that you can enjoy with your family around the tree—that theory is proven true.