As the tradition goes, a decoration in the shape of a pickle is the last ornament hidden on the Christmas tree. The child who finds the Christmas pickle gets a special gift and good fortune is said to follow over the coming year.
Though many believe this odd tradition comes from Germany (Weihnachtsgurke), some suggest the origin of the Christmas pickle is actually American, developed for marketing purposes in the late 1800's. The story was said to coincide with the sale of hand-made blown glass Christmas tree ornaments imported from France.
Another tale I read is that the tradition of the Christmas pickle came from Camp Sumpter during the American Civil War. Private John C. Lower, born in Bavaria, had enlisted in the 103rd Pensylvania Infantry. He was captured in 1864 and taken to a prison camp. There he stayed through the freezing winter.
Christmas Eve, Private Lower was not only cold, but he was starving to death. He was so hungry, he begged one of his guards for just one pickle. The guard took pity on the prisoner and gave him that pickle. Lower credited the guard's gift for saving his life. When the war ended and he returned to his family, he began the tradition of hiding a pickle on their Christmas tree each year.
Over the years I've seen those glass pickle ornaments and wondered about them. How delightful to find the stories behind that, er, interesting Christmas tree ornament!