Once upon a time, many, many years ago, so long that no one remembers the original story anymore, in the far off land of Ukraine, there lived a poor widow woman raising her young children. One evening, when she had finished working in the fields she gathered her portion of the wheat for her labors. She did not notice that when she had gathered the wheat she also picked up a tiny pine cone.
When she got home and began preparing her meager dinner, the tiny pine cone rolled into a corner of the family’s small home and settled into the dirt floor.
By morning, a fir tree had sprouted, and her children were very excited because now they would have a tree for Christmas! The children all took care of watering and pruning the tree and it grew magically fast into a full-size tree by the end of December. (In that part of the world they celebrate Christmas on January 7th.)
The widow was happy for her children but she did not have any extra money for gifts or decorations. She gathered her children around her and told them the story of Svyatyy Mykolay – who we know as Saint Nicholas.
She told them that Svyatyy Mykolay was a Greek Christian bishop who lived a long time ago and often cared for the poor, as all good Christians should. He wore a red bishop’s robe and tall hat and carried a shepherd’s staff. He lived longer than most men but even after he went to heaven God would appoint an angel to escort him back to earth every year to bring small presents and candles to all good boys and girls who celebrated the birth of the Christ child.
Afterwards, the children went outside to watch for the first star in the sky, remembering the Bethlehem star that guided the wise men to Jesus. Once it was spotted, they ate their kutia – which is like sweet oatmeal – said their prayers, and went to bed.
Late in the night, Svyatyy Mykolay did visit, and seeing the widow’s devotion he prayed to baby Jesus for a sign of Christ’s love for the family. Then he watched as dozens of spiders crept into the house, carrying bright berries and flowers to decorate the tree. As they climbed the tree they left cobwebs behind. In fact, by the time it was done, the whole tree was covered in webs.
In the morning, the widow rose and, seeing the tree, opened a window so she could sweep all the cobwebs away. But when the sunlight hit the cobwebs, they started to sparkle and shine. God transformed the cobwebs into silver and gold. From that day forward the family was never in need. They never forgot what had been done but always thanked God for helping them and used their blessing to bless other poor families as well.
To this day, families in Ukraine still remember the miracle that Jesus performed with the Christmas spiders. Christmas trees there often have a spider’s web or a Christmas spider decoration remembering the tale. And although most of us here in America haven’t heard the tale, we also honor the Christmas spider. You see, the story I just told is the history behind the tinsel that we use to decorate our trees! So if you’ve ever wondered why Dad throws so much of it on the tree, maybe he’s got Ukrainian roots!
Thanks for letting us share one of the lesser known stories of a Christmas miracle. So often spiders are scary and associated with Halloween. It’s nice to see them as a blessing for once – and they provide natural pest control! Of course, the true Christmas miracle is the birth of the Christ Child – God being born as a baby, Jesus, in a stable.
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