Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Calendar: Christmas Ornaments

It's the annual Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories!  I've participated the past three years (2009, 2010, and 2011), and rather than simply re-post, I'm going to link to the older posts, and - when applicable - post about something else that's somewhat related.

The prompt for today is:  December 3 – Christmas Tree Ornaments
Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make Christmas ornaments?

Someday I'll remember to photograph some of the homemade ornaments, but we haven't decorated the tree yet, and they are buried in the bottom layer of the ornament box--because frankly, they are pretty ugly.  I am not crafty.  Recently, my parents downsized their Christmas tree, and gave me a couple boxes of ornaments they no longer wanted.  I'd hoped to find something I'd made as a child in those boxes, but alas, there was nothing.  Either I never made anything, or if I did, it wasn't worth keeping, or else my parents are sentimental fools like I am and still hang the ugly ornaments their children made on their tree (like I do - I will have to ask the offspring if it's OK to post pictures of said handmade ornaments in next year's blog post).

In my post about ornaments from the past three years, I talked about the fragile glass "Old World" style ornaments we had growing up.  Today, I'm going to talk about the pickle ornament myth.

One of the ornaments that WAS in the box of ornaments my parents gave me was a glass sweet pickle ornament.  I bought this for my dad a few years ago because a little brochure that came with it (not pictured above) indicated its tradition (also described in the card attached to the ornament pictured above) was German in origin.  Well, I have since learned that is all a myth, if anything an American (urban) legend rather than German, and probably developed by the ornament manufacturers themselves to sell more pickle ornaments.

© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at


  1. Still since you gave it to your dad and he gave it is a great FAMILY story. Nice post.

  2. The Germans had very early Christmas ornaments dating back to 1820 that were hand blown glass. These were used to adorn windows and the houses. Many places used to suspend them from ceilings. "Kugel" German for ball or sphere, grew in popularity and people wanted smaller ones for the tree. Early trees were decorated with apples, fruits, popcorn and cranberries. In the 1840's the Kugels were made smaller to adorn the Christmas tree. I have a beautiful old German kugel from my Great Aunt Mary who came to America in 1884 as a 10 yr old girl. I do not know it's exact age but my mother labeled everything and it says, "Aunt Mary 1895" on a piece of tape attached to it. It is too heavy for the tree so always gets a prominent place in my house at Christmas as a reminder. It is almost 5" in diameter and is blown glass. there are some good images of these older ones on the internet. They were very plain but beautiful. I will send you a picture of it. I treasure it. Aunt Mary lived to see her 102nd birthday. For her 100th birthday in 1974 she started her day the same, up early, pick the tomatoes from the garden and then she proceeded to make her own birthday cake! She lived an hour away from us so I have many memories of this woman. But since many early ornaments did have some shapes like the pine cone, maybe that's where the pickle found it's way into the myths.