A Christmas tree tradition that starts with pierogies rather than pickles

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). 

I was in my thirties before I learned about the Christmas tradition of hiding the pickle. (No, really.) You hang a pickle ornament on your tree and the child who finds it first on Christmas Day wins … something.

The practice may have originated in Germany, but Poles (who love their Christmas traditions) often did it as well.

We never got to find the pickle when I was growing up in a Polish family on the East Coast. Instead, my mom would change our Christmas tree decorations often: one year, silver balls and tinsel with huge pink ribbons; another year, red bows with white orbs and white beaded chains. And so on. I don’t recall ever being excited about trimming the tree as a kid; there was no emotional connection to any of the objects being placed there. It was just … pretty stuff.

Looking back, I kinda wish we hid a pickle. Or a pierogi.

These days, usually on Thanksgiving weekend, my daughter and I bring up the red and green boxes from the basement filled with decorations and the 33-year-old fake tree from its perch in the garage. After the lights (“Hey, Lex, white or multi-colored this year?”) are swirled among the branches, and the gold ribbon twisted around, we pop open the boxes. Lexi gets her own, filled with Barbie ornaments that I’ve been collecting for her since she was born in 1997.

Christmas ornaments that hold memories are the best kind. Top center are the old, crumbling pierogi ornaments made in 2003. (Barbara Ellis, The Denver Post)

I get the rest: a mishmash of her old crafts projects like glass bulbs with now-sparse glitter; popsicle-stick mangers; construction paper trees; and store-bought photo holders with her sweet little face slipped into the center. The macrame stars I created in the ’80s. Some Victorian cloth dolls my sister sewed and mailed to me one particularly lonely holiday. And an assortment that I’ve picked up on my travels: an Eiffel Tower, San Francisco trolley cars, delicate origami, Danish paper dolls, a Venetian gondola, a Greek evil eye, a lobster on a string you pull to move its claws up and down. The pudgy-yet-chic beach babe posed in a dive, mid-air. The firefighter Santa ornament that reminds me of my dad. The porcelain Mrs. Santa as a seamstress, in honor of my mom.

And a few decrepit, handmade ornaments of Polish pierogi, borne out of a long-standing tradition that my sisters and I now carry on with our own families.

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