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Confronting an eight-legged fear

“An arachnophobe walks into a spider exhibit” sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but stick with me.

I’ve battled arachnophobia ever since I was a kid. I hate spiders. I hate them. I don’t like all their legs or their quick little movements or how they invade my kitchen, forcing me to take my dinner elsewhere.

And it’s not just the hatred of them; my burning distaste is accompanied by an all-consuming fear that I’ve dealt with ever since I was a wee lass. Even at 25-years-old, the tips of my ears turn red, I want to cry, and I can feel them crawling all over me the second I even see a spider. I also can’t move and refuse to do so until someone removes it from my line of vision. True story: I came home one night at 11:30 p.m. and there was a spider dangling in front of my house’s door. So, I needed to literally stand there and watch it string down on its web and then back up again for five whole minutes before it eventually crawled far enough away. I actually contemplated sleeping outside just to avoid this one spider.

Anyway, that’s how bad my arachnophobia is. It’s senseless and consuming and exhausting. But, apparently, that’s not enough to stop me from seeing an entire exhibit of spiders at the Royal Ontario Museum.

I saw posters for it and advertisements in the theatres (I couldn’t even look at the big screen when a spider crawled across it). As soon as I saw the advertisements I knew I wouldn’t be going. Of course not!

But, my boyfriend suggested that I need to go. It would behoove me to confront my fears and I’d also have a killer article at the end of it. After much deliberation, I told him that I would only go if he accompanied me… mainly so I could squeeze his hand until I crushed it. He agreed.

As soon as I entered there were huge faux spiders to greet patrons. I immediately wanted to go home and hoped to hell they didn’t have live spiders (which they did). He and I kept moving in and there was a wide array of little displays to get lost in. You could learn about their webbing, what they eat, how their blood is blue, and how they hadn’t killed anyone in Canada in 2012. I mean, that wasn’t exactly comforting but kudos to the ROM for trying.

My boyfriend and I went to see the live spiders. There was a centipede, which didn’t freak me out as much, and a few tarantulas hanging around in their cages. Despite my initial fear that they would be sharpening knives and waiting for me, the spiders were really calm and weren’t moving around too much. Their lack of movement allowed a bunch of people to take photos of them, which I wanted to do.

He and I moved a bit closer and I handed the camera to my boyfriend to get some photos. But as I gave him my phone he went, “Wait. Why am I doing your job? You can do it. Go ahead.” I’m pretty sure I had a headache with how much side-eye I gave him. But, I approached the cage and gulped down the belief that this tarantula would gain Herculean strength, smash through the glass, and murder me. I snapped a few photos and quickly walked away.

My boyfriend and I walked around for about an hour exploring all the different live displays and learning facts about spiders. For example, I had no idea that they had blue blood. I also didn’t know how intricate their web designs could be. I also learned facts that re-affirmed my fears, like how some spiders can kill fish because they’re huge and gross and strong.

Towards the end, I started getting tingles on my legs that I kept mindlessly brushing away. Suffice to say, I had had enough. My urge to cry and run away was getting stronger the longer he and I stayed in there. But, eventually, he and I made it to the end, which included a wonderful Spider-Man display. I felt overwhelming relief seeing my favourite web-slinger. My boyfriend and I took photos inside a life-size comic book and I marvelled over first edition comics that were on display.

To be honest, as I walked out I didn’t feel any better. The exhibit stated how over 90% of people feel better once they confront their fears, but I think I fall into the minority. I can’t begin to express how happy I am to be out of there. Though I will admit that even if I still fear spiders as much as I used to, it was a heck of an experience.

6 holiday traditions from different parts of the world

What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.

Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:

Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.

Norway

Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.

Venezuela

Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.

Italy

Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.

Czech Republic

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.

Ukraine

The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.

Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below