Evergreen trees have special meaning for people around the globe during the winter holidays. Did you know that the Germans can be thanked for starting the tradition of Christmas trees (and ornaments)? Evergreens have long been seen as a symbol of everlasting life. The first known use of a Christmas tree to celebrate the holiday was seen in Germany in the 1500s. German Protestant reformer Martin Luther was said to have had one of the first trees adorned with candles to celebrate Christmas. Traditionally, German Christmas trees were decorated with real wax candles. Don’t worry family back home, they use special candle holders to ensure safety and never leave the tree without someone in the room. The practice of using real wax candles is becoming less common, but you will still notice trees with electric lights shaped as candles on tree branches here. Other traditional German tree decorations include nuts, cookies, tinsel, and glass ornaments. These traditions have been modified and modernized over the years, simultaneously spreading throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

I have strayed from the initial topic of this article a bit, but I find this stuff incredibly interesting and difficult to pass up once I begin researching. Plus, I think it’s valuable to know where our American traditions stem from. Now, let’s segway into the story of how Austin and I acquired the Tannenbaum for our first German Christmas.

This year in southern Germany, we received what I would call our first substantial snowfall on Nov 25th. Since it’s our first year living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with the winter weather. It snowed a few inches overnight and we woke up to a gorgeous white wonderland. As this snow was conveniently timed on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, I woke up knowing that it was too perfect of an opportunity to miss – we HAD to get our Christmas tree. And we weren’t about to cut any corners on our first German Christmas. So a live tree it would be! There are two pop-up Christmas tree shops in Garmisch located nearby our home. We set our sights on one, got bundled up, and began the walk as a gentle snow continued falling.

Once we arrived at the ‘Christbaum Unterseher,’ we perused the rows of pre-cut trees for a few minutes before landing on the perfect one. The worker wrapped it up in a net, collected 50 Euros, and sent us on our way. This was hands down the quickest Christmas tree shopping experience I have ever had. For as long as I can remember, my family made a whole day event of driving to a tree farm in Ohio, walking around the property to select an ideally shaped tree, cut it down, haul it back, load up the car, and stop for lunch on the way home. It was always a cherished tradition for us, but it would take nearly a whole day. I feel like Austin and I hacked the system this year to make it the most efficient Christmas tree experience ever – especially considering not having a car impacted the logistics of cutting one down ourselves.  All in all, I’d say we still upheld the spirit of the season by at least getting a live tree!

With our Tannenbaum in tow, we began the walk back to our house. Austin swung the tree over his shoulder and carried it through the snowy field and down the residential streets. Daisy had the time of her life hopping through the fresh powder in the field. We arrived home and I MAY have made the small mistake of locking us outside after getting the tree stand ready… Anyway, we found a way not to climb through a window and got the thing upstairs. We made a fresh pot of coffee, turned on some Christmas tunes, and got busy decorating. We opted for regular white lights to adorn our tree this year along with all the ornaments we shipped from the US😊 Surprisingly, they all made the move intact – a Christmas miracle!

One more cultural/ tradition tidbit: The pickle ornament

I want to address the German Christmas legend of the glass pickle ornament a.k.a. the saure Gurke or Weihnachtsgurke. I call this a legend because it definitely needs some fact checking. I have always heard that the pickle ornament was a German tradition, but have not seen any since moving here. This made me curious… The story behind this tradition is that a pickle-shaped ornament is to be hung deep in the branches of a family’s Christmas tree each year so that it is difficult to find. The first child to locate the hidden pickle gets a special present and the first adult to locate it gets good luck for the whole year. I remember growing up that many of my friends’ families in Cincinnati used a pickle ornament. Since our area was predominantly settled by Germans, I am inclined to believe that the tradition could actually have German roots. I asked a few of my German colleagues at work and they had never heard of the Weihnachtsgurke. Even so, in my mind, I can find a stream of logic where this is a German thing because Germans really do love gurkens. I mean it. Not trying to be funny. Gurke translates to cucumber (not pickle). But it’s like the German people have pride in certain vegetables and this is one of them. They are on sandwiches and eaten with traditional brotzeit among other applications. I could see that this would morph into a good luck symbol associated with the beloved Christmas holiday. It is still somewhat unclear if the Christmas pickle ornament is a Bavarian, American, or German-American custom. Feel free to use the pickle debate as a fun story and conversation starter this season. Just be sure to report any insight into the legend’s origins back to us!


  1. Do you have a pickle ornament?
    Loved video of the Very Happy Snow Dog!
    Next year you will need to be drinking the Gluhwein while decorating your Christmas Tree .

  2. Chris Cavanaugh

    Morgan, I knew about this German pickle tradition many, many years ago, therefore, I had to search for said pickle and finally found one for our tree! It is fun hiding the pickle to see who finds it first . Your Christmas tree blog is beautiful and you made me feel like I was there with you going through the experience and one of many timeless journeys. Please keep blogging and we loved the pictures of Daisy and Austin in the snow. What a great little video of them loving life in the moment . Hugs to all of you! Aunt Chris

    • I’m glad you are enjoying reading!! Austin and I are looking forward to seeing you soon, although Daisy will have to stay behind this time 😀

  3. Hi Morgan! I really enjoyed your first Christmas tree in Germany story. Regarding the pickle ornament tradition, Tony’s family emigrated from Yugoslavia and no one in his family does this, nor even has a pickle ornament. Tony had never heard of it. Merry Christmas Blessings to you and Austin and a happy and healthy 2024! 🎄❤️

  4. Hi Morgan! I really enjoyed your story of your first Christmas tree in Germany adventure. Regarding the pickle ornament tradition, Tony’s family emigrated from Yugoslavia and no one in his family does this tradition or even has a pickle ornament. Tony had never heard of it. Merry Christmas Blessings and a happy and healthy 2024!

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