German Christmas Pickle Legend: Myth vs. Reality

November 19, 2014

Please kindly read to the end, we have a special surprise giveaway for the
FIRST 5 DAYS OF THE CHRISTMAS MARKET (in honour of our 5th Anniversary).

The German Christmas Pickle Legend

As with many a great tale, the story of the German Christmas Pickle comes loaded with debate. And if you think the tale we’re referring to has anything to do with tasty gherkins from our favorite local sandwich shop, then you should definitely keep reading!

Experts can’t quite seem to agree exactly when the story of the pickle began. However, there is a common thread with most of the tales: During the holidays in German households, the last ornament to decorate the festive tree was…a pickle. Depending on the source, some say the pickle hung on the Tannenbaum was an honest-to-goodness, real pickle. (Try not to contemplate how this would smell by the time Boxing Day rolls around!) Others, suggest the “pickle” has always been a purely decorative ornament. Some even suggest that a very creative ornament salesmen invented the German Pickle myth to drive sales (oh, those crafty ornament sales people!)

So, what to make of this elusive Christmas Pickle (aka, Die Weihnachtsgurke)? Well, the idea is that on Christmas morning, German children search for a hidden pickle on the tree. Whoever finds it first, is lucky to get an extra Christmas present from St. Nicholas.

A few folks attempt to spoil the fun by pointing out that German children traditionally open their Christmas presents on Christmas Eve–not Christmas morning. And then there is the small issue that it’s very hard to find a German person who can verify the history of the tradition.

It seems that German-Canadians, and German-Americans are much more acquainted with the practice of placing pickles. In fact, Berrien Springs, Michigan calls itself the ‘Christmas Pickle Capital of the World’. Can it be a coincidence that they happen to grow a lot of cucumbers there? We think not.

Lesser known versions of the story are no less interesting. Especially the one about a starving Bavarian prisoner who begged his guard to give him one last pickle before he perished. Taking pity, the guard relented. This pickle apparently provided just enough sustenance for the prisoner to carry on. Once free, he finally made it back to his family, and he started the quirky tradition of hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree every year afterwards.

Pickle Ornament
Pickle Ornament designed by Käthe Wohlfahrt

So, the origin of hanging pickles may be a little mysterious, but the Vancouver Christmas Market is turning this myth into a reality!

We encourage you to get in the spirit and play along, when we make hanging pickles a very real part of Christmas this season. Look for them around downtown Vancouver hanging from trees with our stickers on them. When you spot a ‘Christmas Pickle’ take a picture and post it to Instagram or Twitter.

Don’t forget to tag and hashtag your photo @VanChristmas #VanChristmas. Present your pics at our Ticket Hut (on your mobile device) and receive Free Admission to the Vancouver Christmas Market’s FIRST 5 DAYS (November 22nd-26th). Keep your eyes peeled for pickles, Vancouver!

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