Indianapolis News and HeadlinesIndianapolis Local NewsHamilton CountyCarmel


Carmel Christkindlmarkt scholarship winner shares German-American holiday tradition worth 'relish'ing in

Christmas pickle.jpeg
Posted at 7:50 AM, Dec 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-18 07:50:28-05

CARMEL — Among the twinkling lights and evergreen branches, the Munson family hangs a very special ornament on their Christmas tree.

“We’re so German we have a pickle on our Christmas tree every year," Megan Munson said.

Here’s how it goes down:

Mom and dad hide the tiny glass pickle somewhere in the tree.

Then, the three sisters race to find it.

First to do so is the winner and gets to open their Christmas present first.

“And I’m a two year champion right now in the pickle finding. I’m the youngest child so that’s big!” Munson said.

But the tradition isn’t actually German at all.

“It’s more of a German-American tradition. Glass blowing was a very common tradition in Germany and there’s lots of artisans that create beautiful ornaments I think that the pickle is such a strong display of Americans and midwesterners trying to be proud of their German heritage," Munson said.

Sharing her family’s story of the Christmas pickle won Munson a spot in the first ever Carmel Christkindlmarkt Kulturecke Docent Scholarship Program.

Applicants were asked, in 500 words, to describe a German cultural tradition alive in Indiana today, and why it has remained an impactful part of Hoosier living history.

The Carmel High School sophomore won second place and was awarded a $500 scholarship.

Munson will present in the Kulturecke, or culture corner, where she’ll share facts about German holiday traditions and help guests navigate and enjoy the special exhibit museum.

“Most of our Christmas traditions are German in general. Christmas trees, nutcrackers, advent calendars, wreaths. Those are originally German traditions that we carried over here," Munson said.

Christmas didn’t become a federal holiday in the United States until 1870.

With the influx of German and other European immigrants in the late 19th century, Christmas turned from modest church services to the season of gift giving and revelry we know today.

“You’ll be surprised how many people go ‘oh that’s why we do that. That’s why our family has that. That’s why we’ve been doing that,'" Travis Jerde with the Indiana German Heritage Society said.

One of the biggest traditions is the Tannenbaum, or Christmas tree.

“Evergreen has been a part of Christmas decor and folklore since before it was Christmas. It goes back centuries to antiquity. As far as a tree itself standing in a room that’s decorated with ornaments, we can trace that historically to 1605 in the saint Laurent region of France which was German lands in those days," Jerde said.

Munson and the other docents are on site at the Carmel Christkindlmarkt during select times.

They encourage you to visit the exhibit when you plan your trip to the market.