TWO CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS:
A CHRISTMAS PICKLE AND THE BELSNICKLE
The longer I live the more I learn about different holiday traditions. Two I recently learned about are the Christmas Pickle and the Belsnickle.
THE CHRISTMAS PICKLE
Many, many years ago, when my son Nolan was recently returned from a post-doctoral position in Munich, Germany, he and his wife Tammy presented my husband Monte and I with a German Christmas ornament, a pickle in a jar. I’ve had it out each holiday season since.
According to German tradition, the pickle brings good luck and was the last ornament placed on the tree. On Christmas morning the first child to find the gherkin was rewarded with an extra little gift by St. Nicholas. This tradition encouraged the children to appreciate all the ornaments on the tree, rather than hurrying to see what St. Nicholas had left for them.1
I’d never heard of such a being until I attended a presentation on Pennsylvania Christmas traditions at the Westmoreland County Historical Society (Greensburg, Pennsylvania).
When I arrived home I looked The Belsnickle up on the Internet:
Up until the second World War, if a Shenandoah Valley family was a member of the Lutheran or Reformed church, the children could expect a Christmas Eve visit from the Belsnickle. The practice might even go well beyond just one evening, running for nearly two weeks, starting a week before Christmas and continuing until New Year.
The Belsnickle was not Santa Claus! He was ugly and he frightened the children. He typically wore a costume made from stockings and burlap or paper bags. In many cases, Belsnicklers used charcoal to blacken their faces – the ultimate goal being to disguise yourself enough as to prevent identification.
The Belsnickle traveled from house to house brandishing his switches in the air. He would use these switches to whip naughty children. To good children the Belsnickle would hand out cakes or candies. These “gifts” were thrown upon the floor, but if a child were to try to recover them in the presence of the Belsnickler, the child would quickly receive a “whack” on the backside with a whip. (to continue reading click on http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2009/12/belsnickle-definitely-not-santa-claus.html )