Everyone knows the Christmas story, of course, but a lot of other legends accrued around it, many to do with the Flight into Egypt. So just for fun, here are some of my favourites.
The Kindly Spider
When Mary and Joseph took the Christ-Child into Egypt to escape from Herod, they stopped to rest in a cave overnight. In the morning Herod’s soldiers came up after them and paused at the cave door to see if they were inside. But a spider had spent all night spinning so many webs all over the cave and across the entrance, that they thought nobody could possibly have gone into it for many years, and went away. Mary blessed the spider for protecting them, and as they left all the webs turned to silver and gold, and that is why we hang tinsel on our trees to this very day.
The Juniper Tree
When the Holy Family were escaping to Egypt, Herod’s soldiers came up so close behind them that they asked the trees to shelter them. The only one which agreed to do it was a hollow juniper tree, which allowed them to hide inside. In gratitude, Mary promised that the juniper tree would keep its green needles all the year round. And that is why we bring evergreen trees into our homes at Christmas to this very day.
Those stories are from Germany. This is an Irish one, and it’s a little different.
The Cockroach and the Beetle
When Mary and Joseph were taking the Christ-Child to Egypt, they were going past a field where the farmer was sowing wheat. Mary saw Herod’s soldiers in the distance far behind them, but catching up. She blessed the field, and overnight the wheat sprouted until by morning it was ready to harvest.
When the soldiers passed they saw a beetle in the road and they asked if the beetle had seen Mary and Joseph.
“They came through here when the farmer was sowing the corn,” said the beetle.
“That was yesterday!” said a cockroach.
“But you’re a dirty liar,” said the beetle.
“No crop could grow that quickly,” said the soldiers. “We’ve lost them.”
And they went home. But that is why you have to stand on a cockroach whenever you see one, to this very day.
It’s time to wrap presents and start the big cook. I hope you are all warm and safe and that you all have a wonderful holiday this Christmas.