Hhello everyone! Did you have good winter holidays? Were there decorated trees? And good food, right? But – do you know why we decorate the trees and set out a feast? Today I will tell you a winter holiday story. Listen in.

In the beginning, there was only night. Endless snow plains stretched out as far as the eye could see, swept by stinging, stormy winds. The Moon hung in the sky like a silver sickle. And below, grumbling and groaning as she ground her way through snow drifts, there was – a Bear!

“Useless Moon!” She grumbled. “You shine in the sky and I can see everything, but all I see is snow! My stomach is empty! I have been walking forever, and I still have an eternity to go! Oh, I would give anything for some sweet, juicy meat.”

And the Moon – she smiled from above and said, “Very well. But for the life you take, you must also give life in return.”

"The Moon and the Bear" Jane Olszewska

“The Moon and the Bear” Jane Olszewska

Suddenly there were herds of reindeer running on the horizon! Mice skittered under the snow, while owls observed and hunted. And in the middle of a snowdrift, the bear found her feast – a freshly killed reindeer carcass. She munched the meat and mumbled, “Not bad, Moon! I like this. It is filling,” and she felt herself swell with new life.

And then the Bear walked on. Stomp, stomp, stomp! across the snowy plains. The sharp wind blew snow in her eyes and her nose and the Bear sneezed. ACHOO! “Useless Moon!” she roared. “You shine in the sky and I can see everything, but all I see is snow! My paws are tired and my eyes are stinging! Oh, I would give anything for some shelter against the wind.”

And the Moon – she smiled from above and said, “Very well. But for the shelter you receive, you must share some of your own with others.”

Suddenly there were trees and bushes springing from beneath the snow! The Bear pushed her way in – right in the middle of the tallest, trickiest tangle! She smashed the bushes and made herself a nest to lie on. “Yeah! That’s more like it!” she roared. “Nice and cosy in here!”

But – when she got up and wanted to continue her journey – she found her fur matted and tangled in the branches! She pulled and tore until she got herself free – but her fur came off and stuck on the branches, forming needles and leaves! And in the midst of it all, in a clearing, instead of a bear there stood a fat, naked pregnant woman.

Oh, now she was furious. “Moon!” she yelled. “I’m tired of your tricks! I will dig a nest in the snow, a home where I will sleep and grow my fur back and bear my child! Don’t you dare to interfere!”

And the Moon smiled and said “Very well. But since you haven’t finished waking the world, you will have to do it again each year.” The Bear said nothing. Maybe she didn’t hear it or maybe she pretended not to, and in any case she was busy digging.

And so it came to pass. The Great Bear keeps on walking across our night sky, sometimes on four feet and sometimes on two, with the Little Bear always close behind. Every Winter Solstice the Bear sets out to bring back animals and plants, while we prepare a feast, decorate a tree and gather in our cosy, cosy homes – to remember and celebrate that first, long, winter night and how the Bear – mostly – woke up the world.

Ursa Major constellation from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius

Ursa Major constellation from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius

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