In my house we have Mr. Pickles (Elf on the Shelf) and he is about as real as the German Pickle. If you ask any Fredericksburg German about the custom of Weihnachtsgurke or Saure Gurke they will probably tell you there is no such tradition.
According to folklore, in Germany, the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and whoever found the pickle on Christmas morning would have good luck for the following year. The first child to find a pickle got an extra present. How exciting, right? I imagine it must be so fun for the kids.
But, The YouGov polling agency surveyed a little over 2000 Germans and ironically found that 91 percent had never heard of this legend. Isn’t that strange! So how is it that Americans practice this “German” tradition?
There is a Civil War connection. German-born union soldier, John Lower was captured and imprisoned at the notorious confederate prison in Andersonville, Ga. It is said that he was in ill health and hungry, and that he begged his captors for food, specifically asking for one last pickle before he died. Supposedly, the guard took pity on him and gave him a pickle. He survived his captivity and the war, and later began the tradition of hiding a pickle in his Christmas tree. It’s a feasible explanation, but cannot be authenticated.
There are many other outrageous versions of how the Christmas Pickle tradition came to be. Overall they are good stories and make for good fun. Be sure to get yourself a pickle and share the luck, you never know! You can find them online or at the local Fredericksburg Wal-Mart.