Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I saw the Weinachstgurke!

I wrote about the time my German friend asked me about the German Christmas pickle, which she couldn't believe was true. I have one myself, and it's a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a pickle. Americans believe that placing such an ornament and rewarding the first child who finds it with a gift is a German tradition. Ask most Germans about it and they will exclaim in disbelief, "Hä?"  (or even better yet, "Das ist eine Verarschung!," as my friend said) and then tell you that it's not really a German tradition and they don't put them on their Christmas trees.

Imagine my delight when I visited the Pfalzbibliothek and saw the Weinachtsgurke display. The library hid a Christmas pickle in its Christmas tree and included a description of its legend (which might or might not be made up by Americans).
I translated the yellow sign and this is what is says: 

"An old custom is revived

Yes, you have read that correctly. Pickle. More accurately said: the sour pickle.
The “German Christmas pickle” is an old custom allegedly from the 20th century that is very popular with the Americans. The Christmas pickle is hung in the Christmas tree and must be found without touching the tree. The lucky winner gets to be the first to unwrap his gift.

This tradition allegedly developed in poor families who couldn’t afford gifts for all the children. Whomever found the pickle received the only gift.

The second historical story is based on a legend from the Citizens’ War. John Lower, a Bayerisch soldier, was taken captive by Americans. Completely weakened, he asked for a cucumber as a last meal. Amazingly, he regained his strength and every year after that he hung a pickle on the Christmas tree in thanks.

This area is mostly pickle-free, to the astonishment of the Americans. However, from year to year the number of families decorating their Christmas trees with pickles grows.

In our Christmas tree, one is hidden. Searching [for it] is wished."  (Source: Pfalzbibliothek, translated from the German by ATW).

I found it! Of course, I looked like a major weirdo looking for it, but oh well.

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