Spider Webs: A Christmas Tradition

Your Humble Author (center, before gray hair began to infest his goatee), his mom, and his younger brother.

Do we have a treat for you on The Billfold today! It will be revealed, for the First Time in the History of the Internet, what exactly it is the elves do to blow off steam after all that toy making! (Or maybe they are tired after spending a month sitting on shelves, creeping on children in loco Santis. Thankfully I’m too old for that recent “tradition.”)

My parents were Civil War re-enactors who concentrated on mid-to-late 19th-century U.S. civilian life, and in one of the books in my Mom’s voluminous library, she read about a Victorian-era Christmas-morning tradition which my parents may have modified somewhat to make more interesting. This is, simply, a way to hilariously give fun gifts too cheap (or impractical) to wrap but too bulky to physically fit in a stocking. This has been a tradition in the Mescher household for many years, with the whole family getting in on the fun, from small children all the way to my wonderful grandmother.

All you need is some corrugated cardboard, skeins of the cheapest yarn you can find, tape, large bags, and a bunch of gifts (pretty much always $5 or less). Popular items in our household are bags of snacks, jars of pickles, fancy ice cream, cheese, a six-pack of beer (or root beer!), silly toys from Five Below or Dollar Tree, ugly comic-book T-shirts, As Seen on TV junk from the clearance aisle… you get the idea. The weird snack sections of TJ Maxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods and World Market are particularly fertile ground. Feel free to put your own spin on things, from making it “gourmet” themed, booze themed, or the most hideous/tacky/cheap stuff you can find!

Oh, and you’ll also need to hire some “elves” to rig things before everybody wakes up!

Either one of these:

Photo by erin walker on Unsplash.

Or, if those are a little thin on the ground, one like these:

Inebriated elves after a hard year’s work!

So channel your inner Will Ferrell, and get busy! Select a skein of yarn and tie it to a “winder” you’ve fashioned out of cardboard with a couple notches cut in it. Then wind it up.

Obviously this is not the whole skein…

The “elf” should go to where that person will probably sit to open presents and tape the final gift to the end of the yarn. (For couples, it can be something shared between two yarns! And a kiss must be given to receive it!) Then, work your way around the house, periodically taping gifts to the yarn as you go.

It’s a good idea to use a different colored yarn for each family member.

For extra fun, run it under tables, in and around the rungs of chairs, into cabinets, or, for perishable gifts, right into the fridge or freezer, and of course make sure it’s thoroughly tangled with other yarns.

Dad, who will never be too old for this foolishness!

As you start running out of yarn, work your way back to the stocking, with the six-pack container (if any) and a large bag to carry the haul as the first “gifts.” Lastly, simply stick the now-empty winder in the stocking itself.

The stockings were hung on the bannister with care, in hope that the spider webs soon would be there…

When all the bleary-eyed family members emerge from the bedroom, everybody picks up their winder and goes to town! Much hilarity will ensue, so make sure you have cell phones at the ready to capture the most funny/embarrassing moments.

This has been a treasured part of our Christmas morning for many years now, and I hope that some of you decide to pick up this tradition in your own house.

Note: Obviously having a bunch of string run all over your house can be hazardous to people and pets. Be careful, and use common sense. If your pet likes to get tangled up in string, you probably want to keep them away, and when you run the yarn, don’t suspend it in the air like a bunch of movie-burglar-alarm laser beams; just keep it snaking over the ground. (True Story: when this tradition was first described to my wife, a bunch of tripwires was totally what she pictured!)

Peter Mescher is a harmless drudge living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and has not been bribed to write this piece by mighty industrial conglomerates selling acrylic yarn. You can often find him wasting time on the internet under the handle “SirWired.”

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