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The Ukrainian Tradition of Spider Webs and Christmas

Fastidious housewives usually shoo spiders and their webs from corners of the house, or their hiding places in furniture, but in Ukraine at Christmas time, these nocturnal arachnids may discover a welcome mat at the door, as spiders and their webs represent good luck for Ukrainians.

Acceptance of spiders in the home, as with many other Ukrainian traditions, originates in a legend. According to ancient storytellers, there once was a widow living in her cramped, cold hut with her children. One day, a pinecone dropped from the tree outside and took root. The children, excited by the prospect of a tree for Christmas, tended the seedling and made plans about how they would decorate the tree. Poverty was a way of life for the small family, and when Christmas approached, the widow knew that they would not be able to decorate the tree. The children and the widow accepted their fate and went to bed on Christmas Eve, the tiny tree branches bare.

But the household’s spiders heard the children’s sobs and spun intricate webs on the tree. Early on Christmas morning, the children cried, "Mother, mother wake up and see the tree. It is beautiful!" The widow rose to find that during the cold night a spider had spun its web around the fragile branches. As the rays of the sun crept along the floor and silently climbed the tree, the glow touched the threads of the web turning each one into silver and gold, and, as the story goes, from that day forward the widow never wanted for anything.

To remember this miracle, Ukrainians still decorate their trees with artificial spider webs to this day to usher in good luck and fortune for the coming year. So, next time a spider decides that your home is warm and cozy, think twice before fetching a broom to sweep the webs away.

 



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