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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, particularly 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.

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.

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. 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.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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