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Christmas Traditions

Everyone thinks her family is uniquely strange, and I’m no different in that regard. When it comes to Christmas, my family has a number of odd traditions — one is the traditional “argument over where to get the tree this year,” in which my mom insists that we go to a you-cut tree farm and get a “tree that actually looks good for once,” while my dad insists that we chop down a tree from our backyard. 

When my mom wins, we end up with a perfectly conical tree, purchased from a tree farm neighboring our home in Salem. When my dad wins, we find a random tree from a section of our yard and lop the top off it (since they’ve all gotten too tall to cut at the bottom and still fit in a house).

Once we have a (sometimes misshapen) tree in our house, we decorate it to old ’50s renditions of Christmas songs. When Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song)” comes on, we all belt it out at the top of our lungs while failing to hula dance.

But one of our odd traditions isn’t as uncommon as I thought. Every year we put a pickle-shaped ornament on the tree, and whoever finds it gets to pick the first gift to be opened that year. As a kid I thought we were the only family in the world to think of such a thing, but it turns out it’s a relatively common tradition for families in the U.S. and Canada.

According to whychristmas.com, Woolworth started selling German-imported fruit- and vegetable-shaped ornaments in the 1880s, and a wily salesman invented a fake German tradition of hiding a pickle on the tree to win good fortune in the New Year. His clever ploy worked, and to this day many Americans practice the odd ritual of hiding pickles on the Christmas tree.

That does sort of ruin the magic a bit, but we’ll keep hiding our pickles nonetheless.