Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I know Christmas is over, but some of the Christmas legends annoy me. A faithful reader has put forth a vague memory of the "Christmas Spider", a German legend, which for me is right up there with the Christmas Pickle and the Little Drummer Boy.
The Little Drummer Boy has going for it the thought that something like that could have happened. Far-fetched, given the time and place and the state of music and drumming, but as there was music and drumming way back then it's at least possible.
The Christmas Pickle, has going for it the thought that St. Nicholas was a saint and therefore may have worked this miracle, implausible though it may be.
But the Christmas Spider....what's the matter with these Germans anyhow?
I shouldn't complain. They are Christmas maniacs, as am I.
So to compare: the Little Drummer Boy is a boy lad who shows up with the shepherds at the first Christmas and has no gift to give the new Baby. The Little Drummer Boy plays a 'tune' on his drum as a gift. It's a pretty long song with a drum solo that is not played on a drum but sung by men singing "pum puddley pum". With straight faces. It's a touching Christmas story. The Baby Jesus smiles.
Don't they always say that when babies that young smile, it's gas? Oh well, not this time.
I realize the Little Drummer Boy is not a legend, but a song. I believe the story has just about achieved legend status. I like the song. I don't like seeing the Little Drummer Boy standing around the manger in statue form.
The Christmas pickle is a little harder to follow and a little Sweeney Toddish. An evil innkeeper chops up two or three boys and pickles them in the pickle barrel. I don't believe there is an explanation for this crime. At least Sweeney Todd had a motive. St. Nicholas arrives and frees the boys who emerge unharmed. So the Germans.........yes, them again............hide a glass pickle ornament in the tree and the child that finds it either wins a prize or gets good fortune for the year. (I told you it was hard to follow.)
We don't care for this. Good fortune is just another way of saying Good Luck. We'll go with holy cards. I have three Christmas pickles for my tree. Being green, they are quite hard to find. We let visitors find them over and over and give out holy cards. What fun!
The Christmas Spider tops them all. In this story, Mama has cleaned the house all spic and span the way only a German woman can.
Let me just stop for a moment here and say, I am German. My family is German. The small town I grew up in is so German that even if you're not German, you become German by osmosis. These people scrub the pavement in front of their houses, get down on their hands and knees and dust each corner of each stair in the house then go outside and sweegy the tree limbs.
Back in our story, the spiders go hide in the attic from Mama's broom but they are sad to miss all the Christmas fun and not see the tree, so on Christmas eve they sneak down to the parlor. This is all the idea of the Elder Spider, by the way, in case you want to stage a play about it. Down they go.
According to this story, spiders don't see very well, so in order to get a good look at the tree, they climb all over it, covering it in webs. When the Christ Child arrives for His Christmas visit (I know, this is a new one on me, too, even with all those old Germans in the house). He is dismayed to see how the spiders have pretty much ruined the tree. He is sad the children will be disappointed but He doesn't want to hurt the spiders' feelings because He loves them, too. He touches the webs and they turn to silver.
And that's why we have TINSEL.
Can you stand it?
This is where I have to get off the boat. Can we just stick a little closer to the New Testament? We've already fudged the story of the Men from the East left and right. The King James Bible has changed the all important statement made by the angels to the shepherds from "Peace on Earth to men of good will" to the cushy gushy feel goody, "Peace on Earth good will toward men" as though we have no responsibility in the matter... can we please draw the line at the Christmas Spider?
I'll gladly vacuum up the Christmas spider and jettison him and his family across the street to the McMansion and not even feel guilty. They're Episcopalians over there. They'll love it.