Good Luck From a Pickle by Deb Ross

We hustle through the year living our lives and cramming too much into our 24 hour days but at this time every year, we slow down just enough to honor traditions new and old and celebrate the joys of Christmas. A tradition can be something as small as a special cookie your great grandma made every year, the whole family wearing matching pajamas while opening presents or being the first person to find the Christmas Pickle on your Christmas tree. Yes! A pickle!   Have you ever seen a pickle ornament and wondered what the story was behind it? Each of these special ornaments is packaged with a brief explanation of “The Legend of the Pickle.”   The beginnings of this tradition are up for debate but the enclosed story states that it is a long ago German legend. After German children are tucked into bed on Christmas Eve, the pickle is hidden amongst the other tree decorations. On Christmas morning, the first excited child to find the dark green pickle nestled in the pine branches is rewarded; the prize can be anything from a special seat at the Christmas table to being the first family member to open a present. If an adult finds the ornament, it is said they will have a year of good fortune. This is the most frequently repeated version of the tale but if you ask any German, they have no idea what we Americans are talking about.   A second idea of the source of this ritual is based on John Lower, a Civil War soldier of Bavarian descent. He had fallen ill while in a war time prison in Georgia in 1865; he was malnourished and near death. After he begged a guard for food, the guard took pity on him and gave him a pickle. When John Lower finally made it back to his family after the war, he told everyone that the pickle had given him the mental and physical wherewithal to survive. To pay tribute, he began hanging a pickle on the tree to bring good fortune to the person who found it on Christmas morning. This idea has been debated because glass ornaments were not readily available in the United States until 1880 when F.W. Woolworth began importing them from Germany.   Berrien, Michigan residents host a Christmas Pickle Festival and have yet another rendition of the “Legend of the Pickle.” These Christmas Pickle enthusiasts hold the largest celebration of its kind and claim the tradition originated when two boys, in medieval Spain, were traveling home from boarding school for the holidays were stuffed into a pickle barrel by a mean innkeeper and later set free by St. Nicholas.   So the next time you pass a pickle ornament, you can choose which story you will tell your family. Even though there are many fables surrounding this pickle tradition, every account wishes you good luck and good fortune.