ABOVE: A wondrous Fairy I saw at the summery Woodford Folk Festival many years ago. She wore gumboots as it was very muddy that year.
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Christmas was originally a Winter Solstice tradition. Here in Australia we celebrate Christmas within days of the Summer Solstice. Ultimately we need to begin telling stories that celebrate Summer and reflect what is actually happening in our own bioregions. In the meantime, here is a story set in a forest, which I prefer to the ones with snow and Santa Claus.
Have you ever wondered, why those of us who celebrate Christmas, bring a tree inside our homes and wind silver tinsel around the tree from the bottom right up to the top? And why lots of us hang a fairy at the very top? I’ve always wondered about that -and maybe you have too. There was no tree or fairy involved at the birth of baby Jesus and though Santa Claus puts presents under the tree, he doesn’t seem to hang out with fairies.
It was a mystery to me until I met a woman called Morgan who told me this story. She said this story had been passed down by word of mouth for many generations – which means they had never written it down, they just told it to each other. Now Morgan’s family said that the fairies 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. Here is the way I tell it many years later.
The Fairy at the Top of of the Christmas Tree: A mid-Winter tale
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. Now fairies love eating, they love dressing up, they love to sing and dance and they love to have parties. For each season and each time the seasons changed, they would have a big party. But the party for Mid-Winter was one of the biggest.
As you have probably noticed, when Winter comes, the days get shorter and the nights get longer. But mid-Winter’s Eve is the exact time when the days get longer and the nights get shorter. So the people and the fairies celebrated. Now the fairies, at least most of them, quite liked children because they were 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 in to 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.
The children waiting at the edge of the forest with their parents knew then that they could make their way in. The older children helped the younger children. They waited as patiently as they could for their turn to meet the Queen. Some children took little presents for the Queen- even though they didn’t have to. Older children took little things they had made by hand during the long, dark Winter nights. Then 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 wish she would use her magic to help it come true.
They were remembering what it had been like back when they were children and they had gone to the fairies party. So that is why we bring a tree into our houses. Some part of us remembers those olden days and those wonderful Mid-Winter’s Balls. We bring a tree inside to represent the forest, we wrap silver or gold tinsel around the tree to remind us of the silver spiders’ webs, flashing lights to remind us of the flickering golden torches, presents under the tree to remind us of the gifts of the fairy and a fairy on the top to remind us of the Queen of the fairies and those parties. Nowadays there are grown-ups who like to party and dance the night away in forests wearing fairy wings.They wear their hair in bright colours or dreadlocks and sometimes wear fairy wings and they dance all night long. How do you visualise the Queen of the Fairies?
NB: Feel free to read or tell it to your family- or create YOUR own version and let me know. Folk tales 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.