For many Native people in the U.S. and beyond, this is a time of year to tell stories with string.
And it’s important to note that in many cases these are winter-only stories, to the point that some videos about the string figures are only posted online in the winter months.
When spring comes, they’re put away along with the string.
According to Indian Country Today, traditions involving string and stories, sometimes called “string games,” have been found in Indigenous communities across the world.
In some places string figures were good luck charms; in others, they were a popular art form, with contests among skilled designers.
Often, as in the Navajo tradition, they were, and are, part of storytelling.
Navajo oral tradition says the string figures originated with Na’ashjé’ii Asdzéé, a figure known in English as Grandmother Spider or Spider Woman.
It’s said she wove string together the way a spider wove a web.
The string figures are only for the winter out of respect for spiders, insects and other creatures who are inside the earth, resting, in the cold.
Storytellers use the string to teach Navajo culture and history to younger generations.
Those who practice string figures say it also helps teach kids patience and focus, especially when they try to make figures themselves.
And they’re having fun while they do it.
After all, good stories can bring families and communities together.
I’m not the expert here, so check out the video above and the links below to more about this winter tradition.
Today in 1905, the birthday of actor Howard McNear, best known for playing Floyd the Barber on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
His birthday is a convenient reason to point out that you can visit Forest Grove, Oregon, to see the world’s tallest barber pole, 70 feet high.
The pole is not a tribute to Floyd, but a tribute to the town’s commitment to preserving barbershop quartet music.
‘String games’ arrive with the snow (Indian Country Today)
Forest Grove, Oregon: World’s Tallest Barber Shop Pole (Roadside America)