Tradition of spider ornament in Christmas trees. Tinsel. (Dec. 2017)

Susan's Thursday morning note December 14, 2017
Ukrainian tradition of spider ornament  in Christmas trees.  Origin of tinsel in trees.

Good morning.  Light just showing on the horizon with a sliver of the moon not yet exiting his stage.  So light I can’t yet tell the color of the sun’s pajamas last night.  Absolute stillness.  Only sound clicking of keys and coffee pot creaking noises from age.  Morning.  Such a beautiful word.  A scene from two separate Christmas readings this week doesn’t leave my mind.  On little spiders in Christmas trees being the origin behind tinsel.  I had never heard this Ukrainian or German story and hope you get the same twinkle in your eyes reading of the little spiders as I do.  Originally in Ukraine or Germany a spider ornament is placed in the Christmas tree for good luck.  Below is a poem on the animals observing the decorating of a tree and the spider’s involvement, followed by the Ukrainian folktale of the spider’s involvement Christmas morning in the home of a poor family.  This poem shows the fairies blessing the webs.  Separate short stories have the Baby Christ Child blessing the dark webs in the tree. 

Golden Cobwebs (Rowena Bennett, 1948)

The Christmas tree stood by the parlor door,
    But the parlor door was locked
And the children could not get inside
    Even though they knocked.
For a Christmas tree must wait, folks say,
   And not be seen till Christmas Day.

But the cat had seen the Christmas tree
    As she prowled the house by night,
And the dog had seen the Christmas tree
    By the moon’s enchanting light;
And a little mouse beside her hole
   Had looked at it with eyes of coal.
Even the spiders hoped to see
   The secret, silent Christmas tree.

They planned, one day, to creep and crawl
   Out of their cracks and up the wall
To get the highest view of all.
   But just that day with mop and broom
The housemaid swept them from the room
   And so the spiders could not see
The secret, silent Christmas tree.

The fairies heard the spiders weep,
    All on a winter’s night,
Although their cries made softer sounds
    Than moth wings make in flight.
The fairies said: “Each living thing
   That creeps, or crawls, or flaps a wing
Shall share the birthday of the King.”

They took the spiders to the tree
    And, since they were too small
To see a far as cat or mouse,
    The fairies let them crawl
Along each twig and bending branch
    To look at every ball
And silver star and popcorn string;
   And when they had seen everything 
They thanked the fairies and went back
   Each one to sleep inside his crack.

But, oh, the tree when they were gone
   Was very sad to look upon!
Its branches were more gray than green
   And little webs hung in between
That dulled the lights and all the sheen.

The fairies shook their heads, and sighed,
   For in their wisdom, ever wide,
They knew no housewife cared to see
   Dull cobwebs on a Christmas tree.
They knew the children, too, would weep
   To waken from their yuletide sleep
And glimpse a tree all bearded gray
   That would not shine on Christmas Day...

And so they turned the webs to gold
   By waving fairy wands, I’m told;
And that is why they’ll always be
   Bright cobwebs on a Christmas tree.

The Spider and the Christmas Tree (A Ukrainian Folktale)

There once was a widow who lived in a cramped old hut.  She lived with her children.  Outside their home was a tall pine tree.  From the tree dropped a pine cone that soon started to grow from the soil.  The children were excited about the prospect of having a Christmas tree, and so they tended to it, ensuring that it would continue to grow and be strong until it became tall enough to be a Christmas tree to take inside their home.

Unfortunately, the family was poor and even though they had a Christmas tree, they couldn’t afford to decorate it with ornaments for Christmas.  As so on Christmas Eve, the widow and her children went to bed knowing that they would have a bare Christmas tree on Christmas morning.  

The spiders in the hut heard the sobs of the children and sad cries, and decided they would not leave the Christmas tree bare.  So the spiders created beautiful webs on the Christmas tree, decorating it with elegant and beautiful silky patterns.   When the children woke up early on Christmas morning they were jumping for excitement.  They went to their mother and woke her up.  “Mother, you have to come see the Christmas tree.  It’s so beautiful!”  As the mother woke and stood in front of the tree, she was truly amazed at the sight that lay before her eyes.  One of the children opened up the window as the sun was shining.  The sun would slide along the floor and slowly glide up the Christmas tree and onto the webs.  As the rays of the sun shone on the tree, the webs turned into glittering silver and gold colour; making the Christmas tree dazzle and sparkle with a magical twinkle.

From that day forward the widow never felt poor. instead she was always grateful for all the wonderful gifts she already had in life.

The Legend of the Christmas Spider

Long, long ago, on one Christmas Eve, the spiders were banished from homes while the houses were cleaned for Christmas and their webs were broken.  They just managed to survive and had to move to the farthest corner of the attic for the time bing.  However, some of the young spiders longed to see the decorated Christmas trees and the little Christ child that came to bless the homes in the midnight.  The elders tried to make them understand that they were not allowed inside the rooms, but the young spiders were quite curious and adamant.  Finally, the oldest and wisest spider came up with a solution and suggested that in the night, when everybody went to bed, perhaps they could creep out of their corners and get a closer look of the magical Christmas tree.

Even the adult spiders felt the thrill of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them and in midnight, when the house of a noble family was dark and silent and everybody was fast asleep, spiders crept out of their hiding place and slowly reached the Christmas tree.  They were so captivated by the ethereal beauty that they spent all night in the tree, crawling up and down and examining its beautiful ornaments.  They could not curb their urge to weave pretty and delicate spider webs all over the tree as they danced on its branches.  In the wee hours of the morning, the little Christ child came to bless the house.  He was surprised to find little spiders and their webs on the tree.

He knew that every creature was made by God and yet he knew how the mother who had worked hard all day to make everything perfect would be dismayed to find the spider webs on the tree.  Thus, with a heart full of love and a lovely smile on his lips, the Christ child gently touched the spider webs and set them sparkling and shining in silver and golden colors that made the Christmas tree look even more beautiful than before.  It is said that this is how tinsel was introduced to decorate Christmas tree.

Oh, Holy Night.  Oh, beautiful season.  Emotions so strong.  Christmas trees everywhere.  Spiders, mice, dogs, kittens, all taking in the beauty.  Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday morning.  For letting me write.  Today.  Our gift.  Our angel of dawns have arrived and now sneaking away as the daylight appears.  Faithfully handing us this gift.  Look to the skies.  Peace is promised as we look to the heavens.  Look into our trees.  Smile at the webs.  Bless the little spiders who also are loving being part of celebrating the Christ Child.  Look into the bright eyes of children and look more than a moment to give them our eyes.  Show them a moment of time stopping as eyes connect.  Life.  Today.  Beautiful gift.  Susan
Works Cited:
Brewton, Sara and John, Editors.  Christmas Bells are Ringing.  New York.  Macmillan.  1956.
Internet Sites:  World of Christmas and The Battlefields News Optimist, January 9, 2011.