are Scarce on the Holiday Scene
"Tis the season to be jolly!" And that just might
be the reason that the holiday season doesn't feature insects. To most
people, insects are creatures to be avoided. So why ruin a good time by
throwing in a batch of bugs?
Besides, the holiday season is during the time
of year when insect activity is at a minimum in the Northern Hemisphere.
So out of sight is out of mind when it comes to holiday traditions.
To be sure, a few insects are used in Christmas
decorations. The three most common are the ladybug, butterfly and honey
bee. All three are symbols associated with Christian theology.
Ladybugs, more correctly called ladybird beetles,
have been considered a good luck symbol since the Middle Ages. During
the Middle Ages in Europe, farmers' prayers for help with plant-feeding
aphids were frequently answered with the appearance of ladybugs.
Ladybugs are predators on aphids, and their presence
was a "god send" for the peasant farmers. The ladybugs consumed the damaging
aphids, much to the relief of the farmers. Consequently, this insect became
known as the bug sent by "Our Lady" the Virgin Mary or "Our Lady's Bug."
Today, we simply call the insect a ladybug.
The butterfly has long served as a Christian symbol.
The metamorphosis of the ugly caterpillar into the beautiful butterfly
has amazed people for time immemorial. The miraculous transformation into
the butterfly has come to symbolize the human soul.
Honey bees have been associated with humans for
thousands of years. Not only do these insects pollinate flowers, they
also provide honey and wax, products that humans relish. We also admire
So, ornaments in the shape of ladybugs, butterflies
or honey bees are used to decorate the yule tree. In addition, dragonfly
ornaments have recently shown up among the many types of decorations available
to adorn holiday greenery.
But, in general, insects are almost as scarce in
holiday decorations as they are on a one-horse open-sleigh ride in the
heart of winter. Scarce, but still present.
For instance, the old familiar Christmas songs
seldom include references to insects. There are santas, reindeer, snowflakes,
silver bells and feasts. But insects are mentioned only in one song.
In that 1955 classic "Nuttin' For Christmas," insects
make not one, but two appearances. The young lad portrayed in the song
is going to get nothing for Christmas because he was a rotten kid. And
someone snitched on him! He did all kinds of things to earn a lump of
coal in his stocking, including hiding a frog in his sister's bed. He
also made Tommy eat a bug and filled the sugar bowl with ants!
There are some interesting possibilities using
insects in Christmas songs. For instance, I have seen a cartoonist or
two get a kick out of replacing Santas reindeer with cockroaches.
So, if those reindeer became insects, it makes perfect sense to have old
red-nosed Rudolph become a firefly.
Such a change would require a bit of revision.
One stanza might read:
"Rudolph, the light-tailed firefly
Had a very flashy tail
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows."
All right, it doesnt rhyme. But then, it
is closer to biological reality than wingless, flying, red-nosed reindeer!