Ukrainians Hang Spider Webs on Christmas Trees? Here’s Why!

Photo: Liliya Krueger / Getty

Every country and culture has its own holiday traditions and fables. One of Ukraine’s Christmas traditions is particularly unique: It involves spider webs and Christmas trees.

Intrigued? Learn all about the legend of the spider and the Christmas tree below.

The Story

Ukrainian lore has it that a widow lived with her children in an old hut with a pine tree outside. One day, a pine cone fell from the tree, and the children were eager to take care of it so they could have a Christmas tree.

Thanks to the children’s hard work and care, the pine cone eventually grew into a strong, healthy tree. The problem, though, was that the family had a tree but no ornaments for decorating it. They went to bed in tears, thinking of their barren tree.

Overnight, the spiders in the hut heard the family weeping. In response, they spun beautiful, silky webs to decorate the tree.

In the morning, the family awoke and were stunned by the gorgeous tree — which became even more striking when the children opened the window, and the sun’s rays shone on the webs, turning them silver and gold.

An Alternate Version

Ask most people about the history of the spider and the Christmas tree, and they’ll share the one described above. However, an alternate version also exists.

Some storytellers say that Santa Claus or Jesus (depending on whom you ask) changed the plain spider webs into glittering decorations so the widow wouldn’t be upset when she awoke and saw the tree.

These same storytellers say the transformed spider webs were the inspiration for the tinsel that circles around trees to this day.

The Message

Despite minor variations in the details (this happens with every legend passed down through generations, after all), the story’s message is the same.

After the spiders transformed the bare tree into an incredible work of art with their webs, the widow and her family realized how fortunate they truly were. Moving forward, they made sure to express gratitude for what they already had instead of focusing on what they lacked.

This message is valuable year-round. However, it’s especially important during the holiday season, when it’s easy for people to concentrate on material things and forget about all of their other blessings.

Modern Celebrations

Today, Ukrainians still adorn their Christmas trees with spider webs (decorative ones) and bejeweled spider ornaments.

Photo: Ryan Keene / Flickr

Keeping up with his tradition reminds them of all they have to be grateful for — even during difficult seasons or when funds are low. They also believe it will bring them good luck in the new year.

This year, if you come across a Christmas tree decked out with a spider web or spider ornament, you’ll know that there’s more to the story than someone having Arachnophilia!