This story was given to Jenni Cargill by a woman called Morgan in Sydney. Morgan cherished this story as it has been handed down orally through her family for many generations. It gives a different spin to the Santa Claus theme of Christmas and has an ecological and non-materialistic tone.

I love to tell my children this story on Christmas Eve by candlelight. It is a tradition and makes Christmas so magical – perfect if you are looking for a way to make Christmas special and you are not a Christian. I love to keep the magic alive for kids and they will remember this tradition for the rest of their lives.

Have you ever wondered why we decorate a tree at Christmas? Why we wind silver tinsel around the tree and put a fairy on the top? Or why we hang stars and flashing lights on the tree’s branches?

Well, long, long ago, the land which we call Europe had many great forests. It is said that within these great forests lived the fairies or the fair ones. While it is true that the fairies had pale skin from living in the dullness of the forests, this is not how they got their name. They were called fairies because they were fair of heart, fair of mind and fair of spirit, and so the fairies had been rewarded by the Gods and Goddesses with the gift of magic.

The fairies, like many creatures that possessed the knowledge of magic, had a special fondness for children. Every mid-winter’s eve, the Queen of the fairies invited all the children of all clans and tribes to visit her deep in heart of the forest.

Since only the children were invited and the forest can be a scary and dangerous place for children who don’t know it well, the Queen bade the spiders to weave a web from the edge of the forest right into the centre where she sat at her throne.

Then at sunset as the children gathered at the edge of the forest, the Queen waved her magic wand. She turned the spider web to silver threads that glittered under stars and moonlight and guided the children through the darkness of the forest in towards her throne. As the children made their way through the forest, the flickering torches carried by the older children could be seen by their parents as they waited outside. Children often took gifts which they made for the fairies, though it wasn’t necessary to have one.

As they reached the Queen’s throne, the children would approach her in single file. One at a time and with a whisper in her ear they would ask for a gift which only the Queen Fairy could bring. Then with a kiss on the cheek from the Queen, each child would follow the silver threads back to the edge of the forest where their parents waited for them. The children knew they were not to speak of what they saw or tell what wish they had made. For if they did, they knew their wish would not come true.

Today the fairies, like the forests are few; and the children of human tribes too many. Most children no longer have the opportunity to visit the fairies in their forests, but those of us who still believe in the fairies provide a small forest in which they might dwell on Christmas Eve.

We bring our little forest into our homes and decorate the forest or tree with symbols of a time long past. A silver thread is wound from the bottom edge of the tree through its branches to the top center of the tree – symbolising the silver spider web. Silver stars are hung and flashing electric lights replace the flickering torches. Little statues of elfin and fairies are placed on the tree with a Queen of the Fairies on top. On Christmas morning, children awake to find presents at the bottom of the tree representing the gifts from the fairies. And one last thing – don’t forget to put some food and drink out for the fairies who dwell in your little forest.