A Christmas Pickle is a decoration in the shape of a pickle that is hidden on a Christmas tree. When the children were allowed to view the tree, they would begin searching for the Pickle ornament. The children knew that whoever first found that special ornament would receive an extra little gift left by St. Nicholas for the most observant child. If the family could not afford such extras, the pickle finder was rewarded by being the first to open presents.
This tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany, but this is probably a myth. In fact, the tradition is largely unknown in Germany. It has been suggested that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations from Germany. Woolworths was the first company to import these types of decorations into the United States in 1890.
In a small Michigan community of two thousand, called Berrien Springs, had an annual Christmas Pickle Festival is held during the early part of December now it's called "Kindle Your Christmas Spirit". The older generation from Berrien Springs recall from their youth always having pickles on their trees. With this area of Michigan being a pickle-producing region, Berrien Springs is recognized as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World by the Pickle Packers International. They celebrate with a parade kickoff led by the Grand Dillmeister, who passes out fresh pickles along the parade route. A Christmas Pickle Ornament can be purchased from the Museum Store, or for the more adventurous, even a pair of gurken earrings or Chocolate-Covered Sweet Pickles can be had.
While the festival folded in the 2000s, the memories were kept alive thanks to the internet and travel books like Weird Michigan. In 2021, the Village of Berrien Springs, the Berrien Springs Community Library, and the Berrien County Historical Association partnered to bring back the Festival. With a successful inaugural year that saw nearly 2,000 attendees from all over, the festival will be held annually on July 4th on the grounds of the History Center at Courthouse Square and the library. The introduction of the Pickle Preview Weekend in 2022 allows for the Festival to kick off pickle season with the annual In a Pickle 5K and the Pickle Festival Pageant. Additional events will be introduced each year alongside old favorites and we encourage you to follow our Facebook page to stay in the know!