Oh, What a Pickle, The Christmas Pickle...

The Christmas Pickle Story
Happy Holidays From The Pomnitz Family!
In
Old
World
Germany,
the last decorat
ion
placed on the Chr
istmas tree
was always a p
ickle... carefully
h
idden deep in the boughs.  Legend
has
it that the observant child who found
it on Christmas Day was blessed with a year
of good fortune...
and a special gift!


What a Pickle, to be Pickled over a...

Christmas Pickle!

According to some accounts, the tradition of trying to find the little ornament shaped like a pickle which was hidden deep among the green boughs on Christmas Eve, began many years ago in Laschau, Germany.  As the story goes, the lucky one who found the ornament on Christmas morning would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas.  If a family could not afford an extra gift, the lucky finder of the pickle was rewarded by being the first to open a present.  Production of blown glass Christmas Pickle ornaments began in the 1890s.

This "Old World German" tradition of "The Christmas Pickle" may be in somewhat of a "pickle" itself.  Another account of the origin of this tradition is quite a "dilly".  Thus far it seems to have at least some credibility among a "peck" of other explanations.  In this depiction we are led to the German emigrant, John Lower, by his Great-Great-Granddaughter, Cindy.   Our German tradition hence, is one more of legend than anything.  Just as the legendary "Italian Pizza" is spoken of with a very heavy Chicagoan's drawl, "The Christmas Pickle" seems to have had it's beginning or was "pickled" right here in the deep south of the good old U. S. of A.

According to Cindy, John Lower was born in Bavaria in 1842.  He left Germany with his family and emigrated to the United States.  While fighting in the American Civil War, John Lower was captured and sent to a prison in Andersonville, Georgia.  He soon fell to poor health given the poor conditions of the prison.  Starving, he begged of a guard for just one pickle before resigning to his death.  The guard, taking pity on him, found and gave John Lower a pickle.  Lower family lore yields John's testimony that the pickle, by the grace of God, gave him the mental and physical strength to live on.  After being reunited with his family he began the tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree.  Hence, the first person who found the pickle on Christmas morning would be blessed with a year of good fortune... and a special gift, just as John Lower had experienced!

The first recorded references to the Christmas tree that is now often used to hide this infamous Christmas Pickle, dates back to the 16th Century.  It was in Strasbourg, Germany (now a part of France), that families both rich and poor decorated fir trees with colored paper, fruits and sweets.  The retail Christmas tree lot also dates back almost as far.  In those times, older women would sell trees that were harvested from nearby forests.

The Christmas tree tradition spread through Europe and was brought to the United States by German settlers and by Hessian mercenaries paid to fight in the Revolutionary War.   In 1804, U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) hauled trees from surrounding woods to their barracks at Christmas.

After the war, popularity of the Christmas tree grew and thus it proliferated throughout the United States.  Charles Minnegrode introduced the custom of decorating trees in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1842.  In 1851, Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds loaded with trees from the Catskills to the streets of New York.  There he opened the first known retail Christmas tree lot in the United States.

Franklin Pierce, our 14th President, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House.  In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.  Since 1966, members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented a beautiful, fresh Christmas tree to the President and first family.  This tree is displayed each year in the Blue Room of the White House... We ponder, whether somewhere amidst its many green boughs, if it hides the "Presidential Christmas Pickle"?

Edwin Charles Pomnitz, Sr. - December 1st, 2000

 
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