Christmas time is a magical time for me! My first Christmas in this country was in 1981, just one month after I was adopted from Costa Rica. I spoke very little English and didn't really understand what was going on but was mesmerized by the decorations, food and presents. I have never forgotten my first Christmas gift; it was a collector Carmen Madame Alexander doll, which I still have. I also received many other gifts from my very large Polish family but the doll was extra special to me because it was from my mom.
For many years my family and I shared many great holidays, even if stressed and tired. When I started my own family, I wanted to make sure that I made their holidays just as special and memorable. Growing up very poor, I have definitely over compensated when it came to gift buying, but I also realized that creating traditions was more about the special activities that surround the holidays. For instance, when I was a child we always spent Christmas Eve with my mom's family and went to midnight mass together. I wanted to start doing this with my own family but found that it was not feasible with an infant, and many more to follow. I also wanted to incorporate something from both of our cultures (myself, Costa Rican and my husband, German). I found some information about German Christmas traditions but as they celebrate Christmas differently than Americans, I had to improvise.
Nearly twenty years ago, I found an old folk lore book about the holidays and one particular tradition has mixed roots in both of our ethnicity, that is that of the Christmas Pickle. The German version has a decoration shaped like a pickle, which is hidden on the Christmas tree. The finder of the pickle is rewarded with good fortune in the coming year or an additional present. What I really like about this version is that it encourages children to take the time to enjoy the beauty of the Christmas tree, the ornaments and the history of Christmas. The Spanish version is based on two boys heading home for the holidays from boarding school. On their journey, they are stuffed into a pickle barrel by a mean innkeeper and later freed when St. Nicholas took pity on them and tapped the barrel with his staff.
In my home, we decorate our trees together and leave the Christmas pickle hanging on an ornament hook for Santa to hide. The child who finds the ornament first, opens the first gift (remember I improvised). I had a really hard time finding a Christmas pickle...but I succeeded and it lasted for many years before it was broken. The second time around the tradition had spread and many more oranments were available.
While I still enjoy the thought of this tradition being a culmination of both our cultures, I have found out that it is actually an American tradition started by Woolworth in the late 1890’s to market German blown glass ornaments. Wow, I’m a little disappointed but will still continue this tradition in my home. I may not tell the kids, though…
To read more about these traditions check out this site: http://bit.ly/V4APun
I also found some fun tutorials on how to make your own Christmas pickle at:
Free Christmas Sewing Pattern: Pickle Ornament by Abby Glassenberg http://bit.ly/12yGyL8
And another one by Connie http://bit.ly/T6oHrX