Moody Mansion Hidden Ornament

When Mary Elizabeth Moody was growing up in Moody Mansion in the early 1900s, there was a popular holiday tradition involving a Christmas tree and a pickle.

People hid a green ornament shaped like a pickle amid other decorations on the tree, and children who found it received an extra treat.

moody mansion exterior

pictured: Moody Mansion

Fast forward to the 1990s, when Moody Mansion opened as a fully restored house museum and docents took up the tradition by hiding an ornament on a tree in the mansion. Instead of a pickle, though, they hid a mermaid ornament because it was said to be Mary’s favorite, and besides, Galveston is better known for its mermaids than its pickles.

Moody Mansion Mermaid Ornament

The origin of the pickle tradition is cloudy, attributed to German folklore of the late 1800s. However, another theory says it was just a clever marketing ploy born in America. The F.W. Woolworth Company sold Christmas ornaments shaped like fruits and vegetables, and cucumbers didn’t sell well. Faced with an oversupply of cucumber ornaments, they made up the pickle legend.

The legend lives on this year at Moody Mansion, where the very same mermaid ornament Mary treasured hides in a tree, waiting for children to spot it and claim a prize.

Mary lived in a 28,000-square-foot mansion until her marriage to E.C. “Mike” Northen in 1915. Mrs. Northen moved back into the house in 1954 after Mike’s death and the passing of her father, W.L. Moody, Jr., and she lived there for nearly 30 years longer.

She established the Mary Moody Northen Endowment to support her philanthropic goals and to maintain the mansion as a house museum after her death. She died in 1986, and the house opened to the public in 1991.

Christmas was Mary Moody Northen’s favorite holiday. She gloried in decking the halls and inviting people in to enjoy the season with her, and her vision of Christmas past lives on. Items in her extensive archives include hundreds of antique ornaments, some up to 100 years old. Throughout the house are figurines, wreaths, garlands, and poinsettias. There are wooden ornaments, glass globes, paper, and metal, lace, and angels of all kinds.

Moody Mansion
will remain decorated through January 6. The mansion, 2618 Broadway in Galveston, is open for tours daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the last tickets are sold at 4 p.m.). Children age five and under accompanied by a paying adult are admitted free.

The mansion’s ground floor houses the Galveston Children’s Museum, a separate facility where “learning is child’s play.”

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Betty Massey Executive Director, Mary Moody Northen Endowment

Betty Massey is Executive Director of the Mary Moody Northen Endowment, which restored, owns and operates Moody Mansion. The Endowment was established by Galveston businesswoman and philanthropist Mary Moody Northen, and has funded environmental, charitable, educational and historical projects benefiting people and institutions in Virginia and Texas.