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Christmas Spiders

Updated on December 10, 2018
harrynielsen profile image

Sometimes, it seems that our lives revolve around the holidays rather than some ordinary job or mundane career that we might have.

A Merry Christmas Spider Card

This spider wants to wish you a Merry Christmas
This spider wants to wish you a Merry Christmas | Source

The Unpopular Western Spider

In the U.S. and Western Europe, the spider is often viewed as an ominous or devilish animal. As a result, these eight-legged invertebrates are searched out and systematically destroyed. Furthermore, if a cobweb should be discovered in a human's household, more likely than not, the intrusive web will be quickly weeded out, often followed by a thorough cleaning.

And don't even mention frightful Halloween, that popular Autumn holiday, where imitation spider webs (and makeshift giant spiders) seem to become more and more popular with each passing season.

Fortunately, much of the remaining world has a much more positive view of spiders, whose presence on the planet is often beneficial, as they devour large quantities of insects, and unlike their six-legged cousins, do not carry any diseases that can be contracted by humans.

An Ominous Spider in France

Sculpture of the Spider Mother by Louise Bourgoise
Sculpture of the Spider Mother by Louise Bourgoise | Source

Fear of Spiders

Arachnids, the scientific class of invertebrates that we commonly call spiders, (spiders are not insects), derives from a colorful figure in Greek mythology named Arachne. According to legend, Arachne was a mortal, woman artisan, who dared to challenge the Gods to a weaving contest. Amazingly she won, but out of spite, the goddess, Athena killed her by means of hanging her from her own tapestry. Later, Athena took pity on the poor woman and turned her into a spider, which kind of explains why spiders are called arachnids and fear of spiders is called arachnophobia.

A Beautiful Web

Spiders and spider webs have long fascinated us in a positive way
Spiders and spider webs have long fascinated us in a positive way | Source

Good Luck Spiders

In many places around the planet, spiders are seen as symbols of good luck, prosperity and wealth. This is certainly true in Central and Eastern Europe, where these eight-legged critters are believed to bring good fortune and even money.

Perhaps, this explains why in countries like Germany, Poland, the Ukraine and Finland, it is the spider, who appears on Christmas trees, as a shiny ornament or as an elaborately spun cobweb. Also in these countries, there exists a colorful collection of stories that tell how spiders.helped the infant Jesus.

Gold Tinsel on a German Christmas Tree

Old German postcard from early 1900s
Old German postcard from early 1900s

The Tradition of Tinsel

Of all the spider stories revolving around Christmas, one of the most common occurs in Poland and the Ukraine and involves a family of spiders, who dwell in a house, where a Christmas tree has just been brought indoors. The tree is then placed in a special place and decorated. Then at night, after the family has gone to bed, the spiders come out of hiding to admire the new addition to the winter household. In doing so, they travel from branch to branch, eventually covering the whole evergreen with their webs.

Most likely, it is in this way that the tradition of hanging tinsel and actual replicas of real spiders on the Yuletide tree got started.

The Origin of Tinsel

Spiders Hide the Baby Jesus

There is a fascinating Christmas story that originates from Eastern European folklore and concerns Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus. According to this tall tale, Mary and Joseph were fleeing Roman soldiers and decided to hide in a cave with their infant child. To protect the three refugees, a band of spiders weaved a web across the front of the cave. So when the soldiers arrived, they took one look at the undisturbed net and decided not to enter the cave.

Despite the fanciful origin of this story, it is quite popular in Eastern Europe and a English version can even be found in a few American bookstores.

Green Christmas Picture

A green Christmas tree
A green Christmas tree

The Baby Jesus and the Spider Blanket

Fortunately, for those who love a good story, there are other yarns that feature a group of spiders as the main characters. According to Polish legend, spiders made a blanket for the Christ child, on the eve of his birth. To honor this good deed, today, many Polish families will hang a spider web (with spider) on the tree to honor the Christmas spiders. Not surprisingly, the spider story has evolved over the years, resulting in several versions that are commercially available today. No matter how you look at it, the spider Christmas blanket legend stands as a fascinating way to honor the first Christmas.

Christmas Tree Web

This gigantic Christmas decoration by Japanese installation artist, Chiharu Shiota, definitely resembles a large Spider web
This gigantic Christmas decoration by Japanese installation artist, Chiharu Shiota, definitely resembles a large Spider web

Many Spider Ornaments

A Christmas tree, spider ornament can come in all kinds of sizes, styles, colors and materials. Many feature a concentric web with a small spider attached, as depicted in the image below. Others are simple three dimensional spiders that hang from the tree just like a Christmas bulb or glass figurine. These objects are often made from shiny, reflective materials like glass or glazed pottery. And if you are a do-it-yourselfer, don't despair for there are many ways to put together your own spider ornament.

There's a Spider on My Christmas Tree

A Christmas web and spider ornament might look something like this.
A Christmas web and spider ornament might look something like this. | Source

© 2018 Harry Nielsen

Comments

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    • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

      Harry Nielsen 

      7 months ago from Durango, Colorado

      Not only are spiders considered beneficial, but in some places like Thailand and Cambodia, they are considered fine cuisine. (especially the tarantula)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 months ago from England

      Wow! who knew? I still hate the horrible little things, but I believe it, lol!

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      9 months ago from The Great Midwest

      Wow, I didn't know spiders had so much love throughout the world. I've always had a do not disturb policy when it comes to spider webs. It'll be that much more now that I know how they've contributed to Christmas.

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