Kim Crockett displays a pickle ornament at her home in Plattsburgh. The German tradition is hidden on the Christmas tree and whichever child finds the pickle first gets an extra gift that year.

When Clinton County Youth Bureau Director Kim Crockett's children were very young, a friend gave her an unusual Christmas gift.

A pickle.

"It's part of a German tradition," she explained. "The pickle gets hidden on the Christmas tree, and whichever child finds the pickle ornament on the tree first gets an extra gift."

Over the years, the Christmas pickle has become a tradition in the household, carried on with the Crocketts' now-grown children: Alyssa, 23; Ethan, 21; and Shea, 18.

"It was interesting sometimes because two of my children are color-blind," Kim laughed.

"I recently bought a new pickle from the store, and this one is only 1.5 inches instead of four, so it's a little harder now and even more interesting.

"It's good because they're all older and in college."

On Christmas Eve, the family gathers around and drinks hot cocoa and Kim's husband, Van, reads aloud three books: "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg, "The Christmas Miracle" by Jonathan Toomey and "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado.

"It's just so wonderful for me," Kim said. "Shea just started college in fall, so the holidays are just so nice because it's the one time we're all home together."


Plattsburgh State Dean of Students Steve Matthews remembers very traditional holidays from his childhood.

"My parents didn't overdo our presents, but we always had an appropriate amount."

He and his older brother, Greg, who is two years his senior, had separate bedrooms but would always sleep in the same room Christmas Eve.

They would stay awake late into the night listening for Santa's sleigh and reindeer and would rush down early to see what he had brought.

"We could tear into our stockings right away, but our parents always made us wait until they were up before we could open our presents," Steve said.

His most memorable gifts were an Atari 2600 game console — one of the first video games — left under the tree for him to share with his brother. And once, they got a toy train set.

Before Steve reached high school, his grandparents always came to spend the holiday with the family, but they became ill while Steve was in his teens and could no longer make the journey.

Today, his own family continues the tradition of having Grandma and Grandpa over to celebrate. His two sons, Tom, 13, and James, 11, live with their mother in Peru and spend Christmas Day with her.

"We all think it's really important to spend Christmas Day at home, but they come over to our house on Dec. 27 every year, usually," Steve said.

"My parents always instilled in us that Christmas is a great family time, and that is something I try to instill in my boys. The whole family feels the same way about Christmas — that it's important for them to interact with all of their family."


City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak is especially fond of Christmastime, having spent joyful holidays with his family as a child.

"Our parents were very generous, even though there were so many of us," said Kasprzak, who is the oldest of six children.

"It was always very interesting with so many of us up waiting for Santa, including our two dogs and two cats.

"Being the oldest, I received more clothes than my other siblings, so I was always pleased with the clothes I received from Santa."

He vividly remembers one Christmas in particular.

"We always had a fire in the fireplace Christmas morning, and one year, Santa left chocolate and candy in our stockings," Kasprzak said.

"Well, after we opened up our presents, we got our stockings, and all the chocolate was melting from the fire.

"My younger brothers and sisters were very upset that they couldn't enjoy their candy," he said, laughing.

Kasprzak continues to enjoy holiday traditions with his wife, Sue, and their two sons, Nate, 22, and Matt, 24.

"We sleep in a little later than we used to," the mayor said. "We pick up my mother-in-law, and when she arrives at the house, we open up presents and have the delicious coffee cake that she makes every year.

"It's really traditional and wonderful."

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