A couple of years ago, I bought Brad one of these Yodelling Pickles at the Christkindl market. I got it because I thought the idea was freaking hilarious and I hoped he’d get a kick out of it. I’m glad I didn’t buy it for the tradition of it because I would have been a fool.
This tradition, which allegedly has roots in Germany, has been adopted by a growing number of American households in the Midwest and elsewhere. Usually, the glossy green ornament in the shape and texture of a pickle is hung somewhere deep in the tree. The first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning is the recipient of good luck in the coming year and a special gift. (The other children are presumably fresh out of luck.)
Many of these families are under the impression that the Christmas pickle, or Weihnachtsgurke, was brought over to the United States by German immigrants. It’s been said the poverty-stricken people of 19th-century Spreewald, too poor to have actual ornaments, hung pickles instead.
While all of this makes some sense—or as much sense as a brined holiday ornament is ever going to make—the reality is that the vast majority of Germans have never heard of this tradition. In 2016, after word of Americans hanging pickles was picked up by German newspapers, a survey found that 91 percent of German households had no idea about Christmas pickles or what they were intended to represent.
The note on the yodelling pickle I got for Brad claimed it was intended to catch snooping kids if they started playing around the Christmas tree trying to figure out what they got for Christmas. That is a so much cuter and fluffier origin than some which were referenced in this scary article.
Another, far more disturbing folk origin involves an evil shopkeeper in Myra, a town that hosted the benevolent St. Nicholas in the Middle Ages. As the story goes, the shopkeeper enjoyed dismembering children and stuffing them into pickle barrels. St. Nicholas prayed, and the mutilated children emerged from their briny fates alive and well.
*shiver*! Sweet dreams!