Christmas Tradition: Hide The Pickle

Sometimes I think I know everything. When it is obvious that I don’t, I pretend that I do. Today I’m going to tell you about something I learned only recently .

Whenever I’ve heard the phrase “hide the pickle” I thought it referred to something people who like each other a lot do. Dinner & a movie and a bottle of wine on a weekend night have led to a round of hide the pickle for a lot of us. But today I learned something. Hiding the pickle means something different to some people.

I’ve just learned that hiding the pickle is a German Christmas tradition. Pickle hiding, in this context, is something people do while fully dressed.

I’m Like Some Kind Of Germanologist

I have an extensive knowledge of German culture.

He saw nothing! He knew nothing! (public domain)

I watched the television show Hogan’s Heroes when I was a kid. Later in life, I enjoyed the Saturday Night Live Sprockets sketches. I’m aware that German cars are meticulously engineered. Germans love David Hasslehoff.

So, when I say I have an extensive knowledge of German culture, what I mean is that I know a lot of silly stereotypes that aren’t worth their weight in sauerkraut. But I’m not smart enough to stop myself from making fun of “hide the pickle” based solely on insulting stereotypes.

Oh, I forgot, I once worked with someone whose last name was Schnitzler. He was a decent sort of guy. I think his name implied that he was from a long line of schnitzel makers, but I may be wrong about that.

Yup, I know a lot about Germans. And I now know that when a person of German extraction asks if you’d like to hide the pickle they don’t necessarily want to fool around with you, although that isn’t out of the question.

This weekend, while we decorated our Christmas tree, my wife asked if I would like to hide the pickle. The question was a little out of context, but I was willing to finish hanging ornaments later. As I was kicking my shoes off I realized that she was holding a Christmas tree ornament that looked like a pickle.

Sometimes my wife is not funny.

The Mrs. Explains It All

Because she is the kind of Germanologist who speaks German and has eaten many of the various schnitzels and wursts, she knows more about Germany than I do. It will be difficult for many of you to believe that anyone could know more than me about something but I am smart enough to be truthful about this matter.

Der pickle. (image by richard huber CCbySA 3.0)

Households that partake in this tradition own a single Christmas tree ornament that looks like a pickle. An adult hides the pickle ornament somewhere in the Christmas tree. Whichever child in the family finds where the pickle is hidden in the tree on Christmas morning receives a special gift or is said to have good fortune in the year ahead. In a variation of the good fortune approach, my in-laws allowed the pickle finder the privilege of opening the first gift.

There’s probably a name for the lucky child who finds the pickle, but I didn’t ask my wife about that. Since some of you will rush right out and buy a pickle ornament* after you read this, I am going to recommend that if your daughter finds the pickle you refer to her as Fräulein Picklegruber. If your son is the lucky one, call him Herr Pickle-meister.


This tradition seems like a recipe for disaster.

Parents maintain a delicate balance. Changing that balance by over-gifting one child is bound to lead to jealousy and frustration among the kids and a long day for the parents.

The good fortune model is potentially worse. What if it truly comes to pass that Fräulein Picklegruber really does have a very good year? It will be hard to convince her that she did well because she is a bright, industrious young woman and not because of some magical glass pickle. That’s not such a big problem, until Herr Pickle-meister finds the hidden pickle next year.

Of course now my vast German readership is howling. “First, every kid in my daughter’s speed-skating league gets a trophy, win or lose. Now every child gets to find the pickle! We are raising a generation of sissies who won’t be ready to man the tanks the next time we over-run our neighbors.”

Hiding the pickle is no different from other traditions, it is meant to be fun but comes with pitfalls. That’s why I recommend asking yourself two questions the next time someone asks you if you want to hide the pickle:

  • Is this person of German descent?
  • Is there a Christmas tree near us?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, do not be too eager to remove your clothes, no matter how much you’d like to hide the pickle.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out how we’re going to get this pickle out of our tree since we don’t have a little kid to find it.


* Achtung! Using an actual pickle mit a hook in it is strictly verboten!


4 Comments on “Christmas Tradition: Hide The Pickle”

  1. I have not one, but TWO pickles for my tree. I had never heard of this tradition until my kids went to a Lutheran school. I gained my own education.

  2. I have a suggestion on how to get the pickle out of the tree. But I shouldn’t post that here. 🙂

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