Many years ago I came across this tale from Ukrainian folklore and it made my heart happy. I had never thought to have a spider on my tree however, until about 6 years ago when I saw a picture on a craft page of a beautiful crystal spider made with beads in dazzling colours and decided to make my own. He now nestles every year amongst the branches hidden with all my other special little treasures collected with love.
Here is the story of hope, love and magic at this special time of year.
Once upon a time there lived a very poor widow with her beautiful children in a cramped derelict old hut that was sheltered by a huge magnificent pine tree. To the delight of the children one day the tree dropped a pine cone that soon started to grow. Tenderly the children cared for the little tree thrilled at the prospect of having a Christmas tree, and so they tended to it, eagerly awaiting the day it would finally be big enough to take inside their home and brighten their dull surroundings at the special time of year.
The family were very poor and the tree was to be the only adornment in the sad sparse house. There would be no other decorations for the children to marvel at. At last it was Christmas eve, the widow and her children cleaned and swept the bare little hut and stood the tree in pride of place. The spiders had hidden in the attic while all the hustle and bustle occurred , watching the poor children with sad eyes as they went to bed knowing that they would have a bare tree on Christmas morning.Silently the spiders crept out of their attic, down the stairs, and across the floor and scurried into the room. All over the tree, up and down, over every branch and twig the spiders created beautiful webs on the Christmas tree, decorating it with elegant and beautiful silky patterns.
When the widow awoke she stared at the tree in wonder, truly amazed at the sight that lay before her.Early morning rays of the sun shone on the tree, the webs turned into glittering silver and gold making the little tree dazzle and sparkle with a magical twinkle.
From that day forward the widow and her children never felt poor, instead always grateful for all the wonderful gifts in their lives already.
Ever since that time, we have hung tinsel on our Christmas trees, and according to the legend, it has been a custom to include a spider among the decorations on the tree.
Twelfth night cake – the recipe
Twelfth Night cake celebrated the last day of the festive season on 5 January when there were great feasts, of which cake was an essential part.The punch called wassail was also a main feature of the feast on Twelfth Night and although enjoyed throughout Christmas time, door-to-door wassailing (similar to singing Christmas carols) commanded ‘figgy pudding’ ( or 12th night cake) and hot punch. It is considered unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night So the home should be cleaned and cleared ready for the Epiphany on 6th January which marks the day when the nativity story tells us that the wise men visited the infant Jesus.
Baked inside the cake were a dried bean and pea, one in one half and the other. Not to be confused with a standard Christmas cake, this cake had a quirky significance attached to it. Baked inside the cake were a dried bean and pea, one in one half and the other in the second half. As visitors arrived to the feast they were given a slice of cake, ladies from the left and gentleman from the right. Whoever found the bean became King of the Revels for the night and the Queen was found with the pea, gaining power to instruct all to their heart’s content. the second half.
- Butter – softened to room temperature 200g
- Dark muscovado sugar 200g
- Plain flour200g
- Eggs – 4x beaten
- Ground almond 50g
- Sherry, sweet or dry 100ml
- Candied peel, roughly chopped 85g
- Glacé cherries – roughly chopped 85g
- Raisins 250g
- Currants 250g
- Lemon zest from 1 lemon finely grated
- Mixed spice1½ tsp
- Ground cinnamon 1 tsp
- Ground nutmeg ½ tsp
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Icing of your choice: pre-made royal or buttercream
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Dried bean and a dried pea
- Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas
- Line the base and sides of a 20 cm round, 7.5 cm deep cake tin.
- Beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer for 1-2 mins until very creamy and pale in colour, scraping down the sides of the bowl half way through.
- Stir in a spoonful of the flour, then stir in the beaten egg and the rest of the flour alternately, a quarter at a time, beating well each time with a wooden spoon. Stir in the almonds.
- Mix in the sherry (the mix will look curdled), then add the peel, cherries, raisins, cherries, lemon zest, spices and vanilla. Beat together to mix, then stir in the baking powder.
- Don’t forget to add in your dried bean and pea!
- Spoon mixture into the tin and smooth the top, making a slight dip in the centre.
- Bake for 30 mins, then lower temperature to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2 and bake a further 2-2¼ hours, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin, then take out of the tin and peel off the lining paper.
- When completely cold, wrap well in cling film and foil to store until ready to decorate. The cake will keep for several months
- I like to decorate with simple icing and a crown for the king tower but it is all a matter of personal choice.
Dog in Scotland eats Christmas dinner
Curious news from Scotland, a chi apso dog, a breed of Tibetan dogs named Bubba, has eaten the whole turkey that was to be eaten at Christmas by the family.
Bubba walked into the kitchen on Christmas Eve and quietly ate the bird, which had been wrapped in tinfoil and left under a tea towel on the counter.
The dog then collapsed to the ground, unable to move after such a large meal. # A photo of Bubba lying on his side has been shared thousands of times on social media.
The photograph was posted on Twitter by owner David Barrett, who lives in Prestwick, Scotland and hasn’t eaten turkey this Christmas. Bubba might not eat one ever again though.
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