22 December 2010

German Traditions of the Spider Christmas Tree Ornament

By Rebecca MacLary

The history of the Christmas tree as we know it today is said to have started in Germany.  There is conflicting information about its origins but most agree that the first decorated Christmas tree was erected some time in the 15th or 16th century century.  Traditions have evolved since then and many different cultures have their own customs.  One fascinating Christmas tree tradition is the German tradition of the spider ornament.

Many years ago, on Christmas Eve, the woman of the house tidied her home in preparation of the upcoming festivities.  She swept the house spotless, and all of the spiders ran and hid in the attic.  The family erected their Christmas tree and spent the evening decorating it.  When the adornment was complete, the family went to bed while the woman stayed up to do more cleaning.  She was the last to go to bed.

In the middle of the night, the spiders crept out from the attic and went back to the living room.  Behold, there was a beautiful Christmas tree!  The spiders leaped from branch to branch in joy, inspecting the tree and all its ornaments.  The spiders´ activity covered the tree in a thick gray web, hiding all the ornaments.

Weihnachtsmann, or Father Christmas, arrived soon after, and saw what the spiders had done.  He was pleased that the spiders had so enjoyed themselves, but knew the family would be heartbroken to come down to a tree covered in thick spider webs.  Father Christmas touched the webs, and they magically turned into strands of silver and gold. 

When the family came downstairs in the morning, they gasped with surprise.  The woman of the house knew that the new decorations were a Christmas miracle.  They so enjoyed the look of the tree, they adopted the tradition of adorning Christmas trees with tinsel.  Some families even began the custom of placing a small spider ornament hidden somewhere among the branches.

Many cultures follow the custom of decorating a Christmas tree for the Yuletide season.  Many households, in Germany and elsewhere, also hang a spider ornament from the branches to represent that Christmas miracle from long ago.  Decorate your tree with tinsel, and remember the story of its origin.

13 December 2010

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