Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Christmas Spiders

Christmas Spider from The Spider Lady

Not so long ago, and not so far from here, there was a little cottage right at the edge of a forest. In the cottage lived a widow and her two young children. The widow had lost her husband some years back – he went off to the war and never returned, but before he left, he and the children planted a pine cone from the forest in a pot by the door, and he told them he would be back to help them decorate it when it had grown into a tree. The tree grew sure enough, and the children grew, and Christmas drew near, but the widow knew her husband would not be returning home.

It had been a hard winter, and there was little money, but as she watched the children skip off to bed talking excitedly about how they would decorate the tree the next day, the widow thought of a way to try and make the sad little tree a little more special for them. Taking her old yellow dress, which had faded these last few years, she cut out a cloth star, and put it at the top of the tree. Then she went to bed, hoping that the children would be happy to see it in the morning. All three of them huddled in together against the cold.

And as they slept, the spiders crept out from all the dark places in the house. The little family were always kind to spiders, never chasing them out of the house, or brushing away their webs before they had eaten. The spiders saw the little tree, and the cloth star, and they decided to help decorate the tree too. They worked all through the night, spinning and weaving their webs across the tree. Then they scuttled back into the rafters and corners to sleep until morning.

It so happened that St Nicholas passed by the cottage in the forest. He saw the little tree with the tattered cloth star, and he saw how the spiders had tried to help by covering the branches in their dusty grey webs, and he decided to help the family and their spiders out too.

St Nicholas took an old leather pouch from the pocket of his greatcoat, and from it, took out gold and silver sand which he sprinkled all across the tree. And the webs turned to strands of silver and glittered like a morning frost and the cloth star turned to gold.

The little family and the spiders woke that Christmas morning to a tree that sparkled bright enough to light the room. And with all the silver and gold, the little family never wanted for anything again, though they always took care to leave a window open for spiders in the autumn, and let them stay all through the winter.

This is my take on a traditional Ukranian folktale. There are lots of different versions, sometimes it's Jesus who visits, not St Nicholas, sometimes, no one visits at all, they are just magic spiders who spin gold. You will be delighted to know, that you can indeed purchase that now “must have” item for your Christmas Tree, a Christmas Spider, from a variety of Etsy shops.

To be clear though, here is a real Christmas Spider below, if you see one of these in your house, don't annoy it. They bite.

Read more of my Winter Folktales here