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Every year, families across the US and the UK hang up quirky little pickle-shaped ornaments when it comes time to trim their Christmas trees.




The practice is favored by many English-speaking families, and is thought to be a centuries-old tradition brought over from Germany.


The tradition involves hiding the pickle ornament among the branches, and rewarding the child who finds it with the chance to open gifts first -- or, alternatively, that person simply gets good luck for the year.


The origin of the tradition, however, is a bit murky.


In fact, it doesn't seem to have actually originated in Germany at all, since most Germans don't practice it.


A 2016 New York Times article pointed to a YouGov poll, in which 2,057 Germans were asked about the Christmas pickle.


The survey found that 91 percent had never even heard of it.


Another theory is that the tradition of hanging a pickle didn't actually start in Germany, but with a German immigrant in the US.


According to a 2011 edition of Tampa Bay magazine, one legend goes that a German man named John Lower, who was born in Bavaria in 1842, moved to the US and became ill when he was in prison during the Civil War.


He convinced a guard to give him a pickle as a last meal, but he ended up surviving.  After being released, he honored that pickle by starting his own family tradition of hiding a pickle in his Christmas tree for the kids -- saying whoever found it would have the same good fortune he did.


Of course, that story is also unconfirmed, and could just be a tale that popped up to explain the pickles later on.


According to Wide Open Country, the whole pickle game was most likely a marketing ploy to sell German glass ornaments to Americans.


It was said to be concocted by F.W. Woolworth when the store began importing the ornaments in 1880. Each one would come with a card that told the story of the tradition.


Whether the tradition is real or manufactured, pickle ornaments have become quite ubiquitous.


While whimsical foodie ornaments shaped like avocado toast, hot sauce, pancakes, and ramen have become popular in recent years, pickle ornaments aren't just a fad.