Our Surprise Christmas Gifts

My sister, Sue Poindexter, received an unusual Christmas gift this year, something called a Witch Ball. The gift was from her daughter, Teresa Sadler. Sue and I shared a good laugh about what the possible meaning of this gift might be, but as it turns out, there is a story that explains the meaning of this beautifully hand crafted item. Itís made by a company in Scotland using lead crystal glass to form products shaped into what looks like a giant teardrop. Sueís Witch Ball was clear glass with a shade of beautiful cobalt blue mixed in. Included in the box with each one is an explanation about their company, and how the antique witch ball, which they have reproduced, was once used. Some of the information they provide says this:

"The Witch Ball dates back to medieval times and was traditionally hung in the window to ward off witches. Two theories behind this idea were:

1. The witch was scared by its own reflection in the glass , which, being round, worked on witches approaching from any direction.

2. The witch was trapped within the ball.

Witch Balls can be found throughout Britain and Europe, especially in German. Another theory links the Witch Ball with old glass fishing net floats. Fisherman in the early days, being very superstitious of sea-devils and sea-spirits, took the Witch Balls from the houses to protect their nets and catch."

This Scottish company reproduced the witch ball into a product they call a Double Bubble Scent ball. The product is a hand blown bubble that has a smaller bubble inside, hence the name, Double Bubble. The inner bubble has an opening at the top where a few drops of fragrance, aroma therapy or essential oil can be placed. The Double Bubble is then hung in a sunny window from a curtain rod, and the heat generated by the sun will evaporate the scent oils. A pleasant fragrance in the room where the Witch Ball is hung can then be enjoyed.

And while on the subject of unusual things, I also want to share the story of some totally unexpected Christmas guests we had at our house this year. My husband is old fashioned when it comes to a Christmas tree. He likes nothing better than going out to the country in search of just the right tree to decorate for the holiday season. These searches can sometimes take many hours. His first choice is always cedar, but I like a pine tree best. This year we drove out near Taylors Crossroads to look for a tree and found not one, but two, nice pine trees. The bigger one was placed in our dining room and the smaller of the two went in the living room. I noticed the small one had one single little pine cone, or so I thought. This tree was placed on a table in the living room, and on Christmas day, our granddaughter, Alexis, noticed some creepy crawlers underneath that table. As she and I looked closer, not only were these creatures under the table, they were on the wall, on the curtains, just about everywhere around the small Christmas tree. I sent her to get her Pappa, and being the nature expert that he is, he right away recognized these insects for what they were ... baby praying mantis. And he also knew there had to be an egg sack somewhere on the tree, and naturally, what I thought was a small pine cone turned out to be the nest of the baby praying mantis. There were dozens of these little insects that were forced into an early hatch by our bringing the little pine tree indoors, and pushing into fast forward what normally takes Mother Nature many months to do. Just in case someone who reads this is not familiar with what a praying mantis is, some of the information available about them is as follows:

"Praying mantis have a triangular-shaped head with a large compound eye on each side. They are the only insect that turn from side to side in a full 180-degree angle. Their eyes are sensitive to the slightest movement up to 60 feet away. They have straight, leathery forewings and very powerful jaws used for devouring prey. They have ultrasound ears and strong, spiny front legs held together in a praying manner. In the bodies of some species of mantis, there is a hollow chamber. Recently it has been discovered that these hollow chambers provide the mantis with a means of detecting bats, one of their most feared predators. Apparently, the mantis in flight will drastically change its flight pattern (often hurling to the ground in a spiral) when the mantis hears certain frequencies of sound. Praying mantises are terrific pest exterminators. They keep down the population of bugs that are a threat to farming. A master of disguise, the praying mantis can be an able assistant to farmer and gardener."

Needless to say, and much to my husbandís dismay, there was little that could be done but to get out the vacuum cleaner and remove our surprise Christmas guests. And Iím sure if we go in search of a Christmas tree next year, it will certainly be closely inspected to make sure a pine cone is really a pine cone, and not an incubator containing dozens of sleeping insects.

An unusual Christmas gift along with unexpected Christmas guests will be among our memories of the Christmas holidays for what I hope will be years to come.