Monday, December 14, 2015

The Nativity Spider: The Story of Tinsel and Christmas Spider Webs

“Betsy, did you kill the spiders yet?” Mrs. Lobb called from the kitchen of their three-floor New York mansion. 

“Mother, please let them live! It’s Christmas, and they’re my friends. I can’t kill them,” 11-year-old Betsy said.

Betsy loved to play in the fields, and in the springtime, she had met an adorable family of spiders.

“I love your dainty webs!” Betsy said, admiring the handiwork of the spiders in the trees. “Please, come and live with me!”

Although the spiders were shy at first, they warmed up to Betsy’s charm and crawled into her pockets, never to return to the fields. For her birthday, the spiders spun her an elegant lace dress, complete with a matching belt and quilted purse. 

“I cannot have Christmas Eve guests in this house covered in spider webs!” Betsy’s mother said in a stern voice. “If you don’t kill the spiders, Father will kill them, and it will not be pretty at all. Get the broom and do as I say.”

“Yes, of course,” Betsy said, gathering her spider family in the pockets of her red Christmas dress and running up two flights of winding stairs. Instead, Betsy ushered the spiders into the corner of the third-floor attic of her home. 

“Go up to the rafters until my mother’s Christmas party is over,” she said, tripping over the golden hem in her dress.

“My family and I must trim your Christmas tree with webs before midnight,” said Tarantola, the youngest spider. “Each year the Christ Child comes at midnight and touches spider webs on Christmas trees and turns them into silver tinsel. This has been happening since the first Christmas. When he turns a spider’s web into tinsel, he promises the spider will live another year. If I don’t give my gift to the Christ Child, I’ll die in the winter’s frost, so will my family.”

“Oh, we must sneak to the tree,” Betsy said. “Wait for me. I don’t want anything to happen to you or your family.”

As the evening went on, Tarantola spun delicate webs in the corners of the attic with his parents, brothers, and sisters. In the rest of the house, guests danced to Christmas carols as holly, ivy, and garland decorated every window and door. 

The Christmas tree towered at twelve feet tall with limbs that balanced crystal ornaments and glistening balls. Servants mingled among the guests with trays full of Christmas pies and three-layered chocolate cakes. Betsy ate crab dip with sourdough bread, making her way to the punch bowl a time or two.

“Aren’t you having fun, darling?” Mrs. Lobb said. “See why you had to get rid of those horrid spiders?”

“Spiders? Does she still play with those ugly creatures?” Mr. Lobb said. “If I see a spider, I’m stepping on it!”

“Father, don’t be so nasty! The spiders are lovely. They only want to decorate the house with their webs,” Betsy said.

“Don’t let anyone hear you say that Betsy,” Mrs. Lobb said. “The guests will think I raised a filthy child.”

“Honestly, I know you mean well, but people might think you’re not in your right mind,” Mr. Lobb said. Mr. and Mrs. Lobb turned to entertain their uppity guests, shushing Betsy before she could say another word. 

“Why do I feel like the spiders are my only real friends?” Betsy whispered to herself, looking at the grandfather clock. 

The hands on the clock said it was already half-past eleven, and in less than half-an-hour, the Christ Child would come. 

“Tarantola must spin his webs for the Christ Child before midnight,” Betsy said to herself, counting the minutes.

“The Christ Child does come at midnight, doesn’t he?” the Widow Vaduva whispered in Betsy’s ear. “It’s time for me to hurry home,” the widow said grabbing her mink jacket. “He’s been to visit my home almost every year to bless the spider webs on my Christmas tree. Your mother must have never known this! Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas!” Betsy said, hugging the widow. “You are nicer than most of my parents’ friends.” Betsy ran up two flights of stairs to the attic, swinging open the door, only to find the attic in beautiful, artistic webs.

“Oh, I can’t see a thing! Tarantola, you’ve spun so many webs that I can’t even find you! Where are you?” she said.

“I’m right here, Betsy. Isn’t it midnight by now?” Tarantola said, sliding down his web into the palm of her hand. 

“It’s five minutes until midnight, but my mother’s party is still going on,” Betsy said. “My parents and their guests will kill you if they see your webs on the tree. My best idea is to wait until they leave and decorate the tree after midnight.”

“I’ll surely die, and so will my family,” Tarantola said. “I can’t wait! Carry us down to the Christmas tree!”

“If you insist, but Father might step on you,” Betsy mumbled, trying to remember where she had last seen the broom. 

She gathered Tarantola and his family into her dress pockets, ran down the stairs, and hurried past guests to the tree.

“Here you go! You have about two minutes before the clock strikes midnight,” Betsy said to Tarantola and his relatives. 

As Betsy ran to the corner of the room, the spiders scurried up and down the Christmas tree spinning webs.

“Is that a spider?” one of the guests said, noticing a growing web on the tree. “Oh, it can’t be a spider . . .”

“Maybe it is a spider,” the other guest said. “It seems like there’s a growing spider web on the Christmas tree!”

“Aaaah!” one of the older women yelled. “It’s a spider! Kill it! All spiders are evil and dirty little creatures!”

As she began to scream, the grandfather clock struck midnight and bright starlight shone through the dark window. The entire room gasped, and a small child appeared next to the tree, admiring the artfully cast webs on the evergreen. 

“Please bless our Christmas tree,” Betsy said, walking next to the Christ Child, who smiled at her with peace. 

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it,” he said, touching the webs on the tree. 

As he touched the webs, they transformed into shining silver tinsel from every branch of the Christmas tree. 

Then the Child disappeared in the starlight, as if he was only Betsy’s Christmas wish. 

“Oh, you left before I really got to say much to you,” Betsy whispered, hoping the Christ Child could hear her.

Before anyone found Tarantola, she shuffled him and his spider family back into her dress pockets again. 

Although Betsy’s parents and their guests were never quite sure what had happened, silver tinsel shone on the evergreen.

Betsy felt more than merry in her heart, knowing that the Christ Child had taken every tangled spider web and made it brilliant. Now if he could only do that for each person on the Earth this Christmas.


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

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