About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tinsel: The weird Christmas tradition inspired by spiders

Ukraine - spider web ornament
Tinsel, the thin sparkling strands that drape over Christmas trees, first appeared in Germany around 1610 and were originally thin strips of material extruded from real silver. Tinsel was placed on Christmas trees to accentuate the glow of lit candles, and only the wealthiest people could afford the garlands.

There are several legends that the tinsel was originally spider webs. The Ukrainian version is that a poor but hardworking widow once lived in a small hut with her children. One summer day, a pine cone fell on the earthen floor of the hut and took root. The widow's children cared for the tree, excited at the prospect of having a Christmas tree by winter. The tree grew, but when Christmas Eve arrived, they could not afford to decorate it. The children went to bed sad. Early the next morning, they woke up and saw the tree covered with cobwebs. When they opened the windows, the first rays of sunlight touched the webs and turned them into gold and silver. The widow and her children were overjoyed. From then on, they never lived in poverty again.

The German version says a mother was cleaning every corner of the house to get ready for Christmas. The spiders retreated to the attic to keep from being swept outside into the cold. Once the house was clean, the family put up the perfect Christmas tree and covered it in decorations. The spiders came down and inspected the tree excitedly but left behind several webs. When St. Nick came to leave presents for the kids he noticed the webs and turned them into solid silver and gold to make the tree glitter in the light.

That's why it's popular to put tinsel on the tree and every tree should have a Christmas spider in it's branches!
 
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The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT
How the Christmas tree tradition started http://goo.gl/r92VN
Holly's symbolism http://goo.gl/Dj5nOy