Without a second thought, I can narrow down the three things I admire most about my German heritage; sausage, chocolate, and pickles, in that order. From the awesome, to the amazing, to the spectacular. Sausage is awesome because it is unique, salty, compact, and goes well with a large spectrum of condiments. Chocolate is amazing for obvious reasons, but for expository purposes I would say it is alluring chiefly for its melty, creamy, and sweet composure as well as it’s ability to “turn that frown upside-down,” so to speak. Setting aside sausages and chocolate we come to the true German tradition of the spectacular pickle; for German pickles are unlike any other pickles.
German pickles are not eaten for two main reasons. The first is because they serve an important purpose beyond the realms of consumption. On Christmas Eve a single pickle is hidden on the Christmas tree by one’s parents so you and your sibling can duke it out in a WWF smackdown- worthy search to see who can find it first. The winner recevies one extra present, the loser sulks in the corner with a plate of lace cookies. The second (and perhaps most important) reason is because German pickles are primarily glass blown ornaments.
I have been fortunate to compete in several pickle-finding tournaments in my lifetime. However, the unfortunate fact is that I have only found said pickle twice. My older sister’s pickle-sensing capabilities are far superior to my own. To make matters worse, 4 years ago my father invested in an artificial tree that mechanically spins, further complicating my pickle-searching process. In fact I am fairly certain that my few victories were more the result of pity rather than actual pickle finds. So it goes without saying, I am the one usually left sulking when the match is over (with the lace cookies).
And so one may ask why I feel so strongly about such tradition. I answer with a simple statement of truth: because it is my tradition, a part of my culture, my concept of Mores. It is not about winning or losing, who gets that one extra present, or beating your know-it-all sister once and for all. It is about the custom, and keeping my German heritage alive.
I am German. I am American. And I am the worst Noel pickle finder in my family’s history. Somehow, I’m okay with that.
Jacki Schwarz is a recent graduate from the University of Florida. A transplant to the Chicago area, she is currently studying improvisation at the Annoyance theater. She performs regularly in the Chicago area with various improv and sketch teams.