A story is a gift that lasts a lifetime. The story your child will remember the most will probably be the one you tell them, which is why each year, I repost this sweet Solstice tale and encourage story lovers to have a go at telling it themselves in their own way. It is set in Europe in Winter, but predates the tales of Santa, and evokes a focus on trees and forests, kindness and connection to the earth. You can also listen to my retelling via Soundcloud. I hope you do retell (or even read it aloud) to the young ones in your life, perhaps under your Christmas tree or any beloved tree outdoors!
A friend recently bought a fascinating book about the origins of Santa, which uncovers another story that the ones about St Nicholas. It suggests connections to the very ancient mythology of wild, earthy characters like the Green Man. With preparations for the holiday season and going to Woodford, we haven’t had a chance to finish reading it together yet, but if accurate, the origins of the Santa myth are a celebration of natural cycles of fertility, birth, maturation and rebirth. By next year, I should be able to blog about that book, but for now here is a sweet fairy story.
Have you ever wondered, why those of us who celebrate Christmas, bring a tree inside our homes, wind silver tinsel around the tree and add a fairy at the very top?
It was a mystery to me until I met a woman called Morgan in Sydney, who kindly told me this story and encouraged me to share it. She said it had been passed down by word of mouth for many generations.
The Fairy at the Top of the Christmas Tree
Long ago in the lands we now call Europe, before Santa Claus and even before baby Jesus, no-one celebrated Christmas yet. What people did celebrate was Mid-Winter’s Eve. Children got especially excited because they might meet the Queen of the Fairy- and even have a wish granted! Back in those olden days, there were many great forests and only a few human tribes. Deep in those forests lived the fairies who got their name- not because they had fair skin from living in the deep, shady forests, but because they were fair of heart and fair of mind. So the Gods and Goddesses had given them the gift of the knowledge of magic. Now fairies love eating, dressing up, singing and dancing. Every six weeks, as the seasons changed and at each mid-season, they would have a big party and the party for Mid-Winter was the biggest of all.
As you may have noticed, in Winter the days get shorter and the nights get longer. Mid-Winter’s Eve is the longest night of the year and after it, the nights get gradually shorter and the days get longer. Now the fairies, at least most of them, quite liked children because they are playful and funny. So they would invite all the children of all the human clans and tribes to their mid-Winters Ball in the middle of the forest. The children dressed in their warmest clothes and thought a lot about the wish they would make. This sometimes caused a lot of sighing, jiggling and twiddling of hair.
The Queen of the Fairies knew that human children would get lost in the dark or trip over tangled roots and vines. So she asked the spiders to weave their webs from the outside of the forest into the center, where the Queen sat on her magnificent, carved wooden throne. Then with a graceful wave of her wand, she would turn the webs into threads of silver that sparkled under moonlight and starlight.
This was the signal for the children waiting at the edge of the forest with their parents, to make their way in. The older children helped the younger children. Then they made a queue to meet the Queen. Some children took little hand-made presents for the Queen they had made by hand during the long, dark Winter nights. As each child made it to the throne, they would whisper a wish in the ear of the fairy. If she thought it was a good and kind wish, she would use her magic to help it come true.
NB: Feel free to read or tell it to your family- or create YOUR own version and let me know. Folktales are dynamic and grow better with each retelling. Write a comment here or share your ideas on my FB storytree page. Happy Solstice!
Listen to my retelling for FREE via Soundcloud.