If this were the 12 Days of Christmas, it would be four turtle doves, but there will be no winged reptiles here today – instead we have thinly-veiled innuendo and the weirdest holiday tradition ever: Hiding the Pickle. Teehee.
In a nutshell, quoted from German.about.com, “A very old Christmas eve tradition in Germany was to hide a pickle [ornament] deep in the branches of the family Christmas Tree. The parents hung the pickle last after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning they knew the most observant child would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas. The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year.”
Weird, right? The weirdest part of this is that there is really no true documentation as to where it started. According to that website, that whole blurb is crap. Other rumors are that it comes from Hungary or a Hungarian prisoner of war. I maintain that it was started by a pickle salesman and given “old German tradition” for street cred. Whatever the reasoning behind it, it’s a little weird fun thing to add to your holiday regimen.
(In our house we have the tin foil ball. We all take turns tossing it at the tree until it sticks and that person gets high fives and bragging rights. I thought about doing that for an ornament tutorial, but I think you may have felt ripped off if I said, “Step 1: Ball up tin foil. Step 2: Throw it at the tree. Step 3: Repeat if necessary.”)
The pickle is way easier to find if it dominates the tree, just FYI
- Felt in pickle green and wreath green
- Embroidery floss
- Beads, sequins, and other such spangles
- Polyfil, felt scraps, cotton balls, dismembered teddy bears, or some other nefarious stuffing
- Yarn, ribbon, or cord for hanging
- The official pickle pattern
- Scissors, knives, sharp teeth, or psychic cutting powers
When you download the pattern, you may notice that Abe Lincoln proclaims this the easiest pattern ever. It totally is. However, the actual construction probably took longer than any other pattern I’ve published to date. I was making them six at a time, maybe that was the problem?
Step 1: Ball up the tin foil.. wait no.. CUT OUT YOUR PICKLES! The easiest way to do this is to fold the felt and cut both pieces at the same time, but, if you are only allowed Kindergarten safety scissors or something, use the paper pattern to cut the first pickle and then use that pickle to cut the second so that they match up better.
Step 2: Accidentally open your beads upside down and dump them all over the place. Sudden sushi craving since it looked like my desk was covered in roe.
Crap. And why was I holding that bead tube so awkwardly? The world may never know.
Step 3: Give your pickles glorified countenances. Or faces. Whatever.
Make them happy, sad, indifferent, perplexed, murderous, whatever makes you happy. Give them cute teeth and eye shines. Some of my guys have bead eyes. The worried looking guys have tiny felt circles. That guy on the left was going to have a monocle, but I ended up cutting it off and just giving him one white ring around his eye, which makes him look a little manic.
Step 4: BLING, BABY!
Break out those beads and sequins! Aside from Liberace’s birthday, there is no better holiday for sparkles. Make them fancy!
Step 5: Sew and stuff
Don’t stuff them too firmly or they’ll be weird and skinny when you’re done. No one likes a skinny pickle.
Step 6: Wreath ‘em!
Cut a strip of felt that is about twice the circumference of the pickle neck. Or that little indentation that could act like a neck. Or just cut it about 9 inches long and about 3/4 inch wide, which is what I did for mine! You’ll want to gather them, so sew down the middle of each strip with a long stitch and do not backstitch or knot the ends! Fold it in half and make a cut every 1/4 inch or so. This will make it look leafier.
To gather the wreath, hold it at the end and pull firmly on one thread, either the top or bobbin. It will slowly start to scrunch up. Scrunch it about halfway and then do the same thing from the other side until it is all scrunchy and cool. Adjust as needed to fit around your pickle and sew it down. I usually sew it with the threads from the gathering and then pull them through the pickle to hide the ends. Add red beads in clusters of three for that swanky holiday feel.
Step 7: ALMOST DONE HOLD THE VODKA (unless it’s pickle flavored)
You can make your hanger any way you want to. I’ve hung ornaments with safety pins before – sometimes it’s a nice touch. You can use an eyelet setter to make a hole in his head, run floss through his head, or follow these convoluted instructions!
I have this super fancy yarn. It’s from Italy. It’s silky. It has a thread of silver. It has sequins built in. It was crazy expensive. It was sort of a ridiculous extravagance, but I use it to make things like ornament hangers and gift wrap ribbons for really nice people. I ran a small piece of embroidery floss through his head (picture 1) and then laid two lengths of yarn over the thread (about 8 inches each). I used the thread and a simple knot to secure the yarn (picture 2). I picked one length of yarn and tied a knot at the top to make a loop (picture 3). I then tied the other length into a cute little bow and trimmed all the ends as needed. To finish it off, I tied the embroidery floss in another knot over the top of the bow and then ran the ends of the floss down through the pickle.
and then OMG DONE. Have some dramatic pictures of moody pickles:
Pensive and angry
Mind-boggled at the price of eggnog
Super happy, being stalked.
I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspires you to start up a weird family tradition. Whether it’s pickles, foil, or everyone twerking the tree before the lights get lit, do something crazy that your kids, parents, chinchillas, or imaginary hobos will roll their eyes at but secretly love and look forward to every year.