A Merry Christmas Spider Card
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
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
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
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
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
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
© 2018 Harry Nielsen