This was one of my favorite holiday stories as a child, and like all folktales there are many variations of it. This is the version I remember from my youth.
The Legend of the Christmas Spider, Or Why We Put Tinsel on the Christmas Tree: A Folktale from Eastern Europe.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a mother preparing her house for Christmas Eve, that magical night when the Christ Child himself would bless the house. She cleaned and cleaned and cleaned, so that everything would be perfect for when the Christ Child arrived. She dusted, and she scrubbed, and even the smallest of spiders were banished into the far corners of the house. Her husband brought in a Christmas tree and placed it with care, and the family decorated the tree so that it would be beautiful for the Christ Child.
The spiders were sad because they longed to see the Christ Child as well. One small spider thought if he just sneaked under the attic door, he might be able to see the Christ Child when He arrived. And so the spider crept in, oh so quietly, and hid on the Christmas tree. He loved how the family had adorned the tree, and he decided he wanted to help decorate as well. So he worked and worked, leaving trails of sticky grey spider webs draped all over the Christmas tree.
When the Christ Child arrived to bless the house, He saw the beautifully clean house and the Christmas tree covered in spider webs. He loved spiders, as He loved all of God’s creatures, but he didn’t think that the mother, after all her hard work, would appreciate the webs. So he touched the webs, and turned them to beautiful strands of silver and gold, making them beautiful beyond compare.
And this is why, even today, we decorate our Christmas trees with shining tinsel. In the Ukraine, it is also a custom to include a spider ornament among the decorations, in honor of the small spider who wanted to see the Christ Child. It is also why, in parts of Germany, Poland, and the Ukraine, it is considered lucky to find a spider web on the Christmas Tree.
I wrote this version of the story as I remembered it from my childhood.
When I did some research into the story, looking for books on it and similar stories to share, I found it interesting that the stories I found, were not only different from what I remember. There are a number of very different versions out there. In some, for example, like mine, they attribute the miracle to the Christ Child, although the details varied. In others, it was caused by the sunlight shining down upon the tree on Christmas day. In some versions, the family is very poor, and the webs turning into gold and silver meant that the family never lived in poverty again.
This is the beauty of folklore. These tales originally came down to us from oral traditions, stories being passed down from generation to generation.So, because oral traditions vary depending on the time, the place, and the individual storytellers, the stories change and adapt.
What are some of your favorite holiday folktales?
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