According to legend, in Germany, parents decorate their Tannenbaums on Christmas Eve. The last hanging ornament is die Weinachtsgurke-a delicate glass ornament shaped like a pickle. This is an important ornament, for the next morning the kids will rush to open their St. Louis gifts. Nicholas. But festivals can not begin until one of the children finds the gherkin elusive. Whoever finds it can open the first gift, and may even receive additional treatment for his effort. So the story is told here in America. Glass Christmas pickles are a popular ornament, and usually come with the curious legend tucked in or printed on the box.
The strangest part of this legend is that it is illegally unknown in Germany. Nobody knows where it came from, or who started it. Well known is the fact that the decoration of Christmas trees with lights, ornaments and garlands is native to Germany, but without the Tradition Pickle Tradition was practiced in a remote region of the homeland, it is likely that the legend was created at least partly Americans, sometimes of German origin. There are many stories about how tradition can begin.
A rumor tells that a Bavarian-born Union soldier fought during the Civil War, John Low (or perhaps Hans Lauer) who was captured and sent to prison in Georgia. In poor health and starving, the prisoner only asked for one pickle before dying. A merciful guardian took pity and found him a pickle. Miraculously, John lived, and after returning home, he began the Christmas Pickle tradition, promising good fortune to whoever found the special ornament on Christmas Day.
If this story is a little stretched, there is a second story that continues in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where 24% of the population declare a German ancestry. The locals claim that there are hundreds of years ago, two young Spanish boys, returning from the boarding school one Christmas night, have taken refuge in an inn. Here, they met a cantankerous innkeeper who trapped them in a barrel of pickles. When St. Nicholas stopped at the inn that night, he felt their distress and hit the cannon with his staff, releasing them by magic. Whether this story is true or not, Berrien Springs herself calls The World Christmas Pickle Capital.
The first ornaments used by the Germans to decorate Christmas trees were fruits, especially apples, and nuts. These, along with the evergreen tree itself, represented the certainty that life would come back in the spring. In the middle of the eighteenth century, some entrepreneurs living in the village of Lauscha (in the present state of Thuringia) began selling glass ornaments. By first using fruit and nut mussels, they often branched out, adding thousands of mussels to their repertoire: angels, bells, saints, hearts, stars, and so on. Yet there is no evidence that they have made a pickle, or tradition of pickling ever practiced in Lauscha or in another German village.
Wherever the legend comes, the tradition of Christmas pickles is here to stay. Several manufacturers of German glass ornaments have capitalized on history and offer a variety of pickles, dills and cucumbers (some even donning merry Santa hats!), Perpetuating the myth even as their German neighbors deny with vehemently have never heard of it. Whatever the origin, the tradition is sure to bring a good dose of Christmas joy. And is not it the goal?