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Here’s Why Some People Decorate Their Christmas Trees with Spiders

A spider Christmas ornament on a Christmas tree with garland.
Elena Rozhanskaya/Shutterstock

Ever seen a spider-shaped Christmas ornament at a gift fair or thrift store? Although done up with gold, silver, and sparkling jewels, these ornaments might seem like strange choices for post-Halloween holiday decor. However, there’s actually a fascinating cultural history behind the spider as Christmas ornament.

The Legend of the Christmas Spider

The Legend of the Christmas Spider is an old folktale from Eastern Europe,  and seems to have originated in the western region of Ukraine. As with all legends, there are many different variations of it, but they all share similar themes. You can even buy books based on the legend today.

As the story goes, a widowed mother once carefully grew a tree from a pinecone so that her children would have a Christmas tree. However, when Christmas finally came, the family couldn’t afford any decorations. Still, the mother dutifully cleaned the whole house, banishing the spiders to the farthest reaches of the attic.

A Christmas Spider's Miracle

This children’s book is one of the many retellings of the old Christmas spider tale

However, overnight, the spiders came down and covered the tree with their webs. When the children awoke in the morning, the webs were transformed into silver and gold by the light of the sun, and they were overjoyed to see these decorations on their tree.

In other versions of the story, it was the Christmas angel, baby Jesus, or Santa Claus who touched the spiderwebs and turned them to silver and gold, forever changing the fortunes of the widow and her children. In yet another version, a mother spider lived in the Christmas tree and decorated it with webs to thank the widow for not chasing her away.

Every version ends in the same tradition, though: gold and silver spiders and strands of web-like tinsel used to decorate trees in Eastern Europe. In fact, some people think that this legend is where the tradition of Christmas tinsel came from.

Would You Decorate Your Tree with Spiders?

Thanks to this legend, spiders at Christmastime can be seen as symbols of luck, or reminders of the importance of hope, charity, and kindness. This is certainly a far cry from the U.S. interpretation of spiders as spooky, scary creatures.

Matashi Crystal and Gold Spider

24k gold plating and crystals give this spider ornament a Christmas sparkle.

Not yet sold on the idea? You might warm up to it once you see some of the beautiful spider-themed ornaments out there. With metallic colors and sparkling elements, these ornaments look nothing like Halloween decorations, and can become a classy addition to your Christmas tree. And if you’re having trouble finding the exact spider you want, you can always add an ornament hook to a spider brooch!

Alilang Spider Brooch

A cute little sparkly brooch like this can become a lovely little ornament with the addition of a simple hook.

If you want to start a new holiday tradition, or spark some interesting conversations at your Christmas party, you might give the Christmas spiders a try! And if you’re in the mood for old-world ornament traditions, don’t forget to hang a pickle on your tree.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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