I remember Dr. Weil recommending a NEWS fast at times to keep us sane. I often use this "therapy" for myself especially during this past year when so many things seemed to go so wrong. In Ohio we lost a good governor- Strickland. His sucessor - Kasich, already has unbelievably cancelled out a transit project which would have linked the three C's cities - Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. The allocated money went instead to two other states!
Don't even remind me of all that went wrong with the federal government because, after all, this is the week of Christmas, so I'm switching gears and thinking happy thoughts - like remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season. As I listen to the Christmas carols on the radio, I'm recalling some Christmasy legends. Since I love animals they will be about them.
The first is a folk legend from Germany and the Ukraine and is called "The Legend of the Christmas Spider." The mother of the household was busy cleaning the house because she wanted it spotlessly clean for this great day. She even had reached the cozy corner in the ceiling where the spiders resided. They had no alternative but to flee to the attic. Finally, the tree had been trimmed and the family were in bed. The spiders were anxious to see the tree too as they came down from their attic place. The brightness of the room caused them to move more closely to the tree. In fact, they raced up and down the branches spinning their webs as they went.
However, the Christ Child seeing the webs- knew that everyone would be dismayed to see the tree with them so he decided to touch them. They all turned to sparkling, shimmering, silver and gold. And of course, we all know that the family was mesmerized by this sight, and that's how tinsel became the inspiration for trimming trees ever since then.
As lovely as this legend is, I even like better the one involving a spider also. When Herod dispatched his soldiers to kill the Baby Jesus, the spider residing in the Holy Family's cave decided he would not allow the soldiers to come in. So he spun a web at the entrance of the cave. And yes, the soldiers seeing the web passed on - thinking no one could be in the cave since the web was in tact. This undaunting little spider saved the Baby Jesus with his humble web.
I always marvel when I think that this new born King decided that he would not be born in a palace - not even in one of the Jewish homes in Bethlehem. No, this king would be born in a cave or a stable which housed the family's animals. For me this says more than anything else that God has a special place in his heart for the animals. They would be the first to see the new born king!
This legend is called the Legend of the Stork. It has the beasts and the birds of the world rushing to greet this beautiful baby king. The ox and other cave animals bowed down in their stalls while the wild animals remained outside the stable hoping only to get a glimpse of the Holy Son. Among them was a long-legged stork with white feathers and a high crest. He was moved with compassion when he saw the baby King lying in the bed of straw with no pillow under his head.
So he decided to provide a pillow of soft feathers from his plummage. Painful as it was- he tugged and tore at the softest plumes on his breast. Truly these soft feathers provided the best pillow fit for the Holy Child as He laid on them and smiled contentedly.
Well, I have never spotted a stork on a chimney, but I imagine my immigrant parents had seen them on the cottage chimneys in their Slovak villages. This lovely legend of the stork giving a part of his own body for the comfort of the Christ child has since then made spotting a stork on the chimney or flying in air - a lucky omen. And he is also considered a patron of babies everywhere.
And the last legend I am recalling is the Legend of Robin Red-breast. It was a magical time and now Mary and Joseph's eye lids were heavy with sleep. They needed to rest now. Even though the breaths of the cow and the donkey were helping to take the chill off the night, the fire was also needed, and it seemed that it would soon die out. However, the robin seeing this -quickly hovered over and fanned the dying embers -sparking them back to life. For his kindness, God painted his breast red as a remembrance of the fire he kindly revived for the Holy Family's warmth so long, long ago.