Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Traditions: Pickles

If you are clicking here from Sew, Mama, Sew, for the give away, you have until midnight tonight (eastern time) to enter. Just scroll down to the Dec. 3rd post and leave a comment there.This holiday tradition is brought to you by Hallmark, which is a little embarrassing for me to admit, but my kids love it so much, I have to share.

Three years ago at this very time of year I had mono. I was utterly exhausted for weeks and weeks. One day I managed to drag myself to the store to do some much-needed holiday shopping, and in my near-delirium I bought this elf ornament at Hallmark because I thought it was cute. (The cuteness didn't come from me being nearly delirious. He really is cute. I have a weakness for pointy hats and striped stockings.) However, the delirium prevented me from realizing that this elf was named Pickles, and that he's a game as much as he is an ornament. This was all written right there in plain English on the box. I just didn't notice because I was concentrating too hard on not collapsing in the middle of the store.

You've probably heard of the alleged German tradition of the pickle ornament on the tree. Parents hide the pickle on the tree on Christmas Eve, and the first child to find the pickle Christmas morning opens the first present. Turns out it's not a German tradition at all (which I found out the hard way twenty years ago when I saw a glass pickle ornament in a store, complete with the legend written on an attached card, and I bought it for my mom because she was raised in Germany and I thought it would be a great piece of nostalgia for her, but instead of weeping tears of joy when she opened the ornament she just gave me a puzzled look, and the pickle ornament--which was really sort of ugly!--made its way into her next yard sale). Regardless of authenticity of the tradition, ornament makers everywhere try to capitalize on this legend, and Pickles the Elf is Hallmark's nod to the tradition of the Pickle.

I bought Pickles the Elf, not realizing he was Pickles the Elf. It wasn't until a few weeks later when we were decorating our tree that I noticed the name on the box, along with a list of suggestions for how to use Pickles. Family members take turns hiding Pickles on the tree and finding him. Make the game more challenging by hiding him anywhere in the house! Or pay it forward with Pickles by slipping him under the pillow of a family member. Whoever finds Pickles under her pillow must secretly do nice things for one person in the family all day, and at the end of the day must slip Pickles under the pillow of that person.

Our game of Pickles is pretty much confined to playing hide and seek with him on the tree. The kids find this game waaaay more entertaining than I expected they would. They hide him for each other (and try to trick each other in the process), or they ask me to hide him so they can race against each other to find him (which usually involves much screaming and laughing). They even have visiting friends play the game. When Pickles is unearthed from the box of ornaments every year, the kids erupt with a cheer, and fight over who gets to hide him first.

Any family can start this tradition (hopefully without the fighting!!), but you don't need to buy a special ornament at Hallmark to do it. You could craft a special ornament to be your Pickles, or you could choose an ornament you already have and designate it as your Pickles. You don't even have to call it Pickles. Name it anything you want, come up with your own games, and make the tradition yours.