From the time I was a young girl, my favorite day of the Christmas season was always Christmas Eve. I don’t know if it was the joy of anticipation, or the magic evening my parents and grandparents created so selflessly. It could have been Christmas Eve mass, or the activities that followed: the appetizers and Christmas play that were performed by a group of untalented, yet eager children, whose talents were applauded as though they were Broadway stars. It could have been the feel of soft, new, unworn Christmas pajamas or the silence that settled in the room as my siblings and I listened for the sound of sleigh bells, willing our eyes to get heavy before Santa passed us by.
Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.
To this day Christmas Eve is still my favorite day of the Christmas season. I am now one of the “Christmas makers” rather than a receiver of the gift, but there is still something magical in the air as we await the blessings of Christmas day.
And there is no place I would rather await the magic of Christmas than with my family, at the Homestead.
December 24th everyone woke and got right to work. There is a lot of work that goes into preparing the farm animals for our absence and moving all the Christmas supplies to Ohio for two days. There are stockings to pack, animals to feed, appetizers to pack in the cooler, and gifts to load in the trailer. There were too many people and too many bags to drive one vehicle so Toby drove his truck, pulling his trailer, while Grace drove my car. It was her longest driving stint since she passed her permit test and although she had to drive unfamiliar roads in Christmas traffic she did a beautiful job getting us safely to the Homestead in just under 3 hours.
When we arrived we greeted Uncle Travis, who was visiting from Texas, and G.G. (my grandma) who was visiting from Florida. The only thing that would have made the holidays even better is if my sister and her family could have joined us from Michigan.
When we arrived, G.G. had a surprise for Ozzie. She had finished knitting his stocking. He now has a personalized stocking to match the rest of the family’s stockings. It is a special gift that my grandmother has blessed all the family members with. She has knit dozens and dozens of Christmas stockings over the years as new spouses have married into the family, new babies have been born and little boys have been adopted.
It made the adoption feel all the more official as Ozzie held his new stocking.
As I took the photo I reflected on God’s hand in our lives. Last year God brought Ozzie into our lives when we volunteered to take Ozzie and his sister in for Christmas. They had no place to go. It was a special Christmas as we were able to be part of something blessed and holy. Who would have thought, 12 months later, that little boy would be our son and our family would be +1. It is humbling to see how much life can change over the course of a year.
Ozzie was also reflecting on the previous year when he said, “This year I have my own family.”
For dinner on Christmas Eve it is our tradition is to have appetizers. It adds to the festive, fun atmosphere to eat on our laps and enjoy dips and treats instead of a sit down meal.
Like the Christmas eves of my childhood, the kids all received new Christmas PJs.
On Christmas eve the kids have also continued the tradition of putting on a play or a variety show for the adults’ entertainment. This year the big kids did a selection of songs from the movie “Frozen” hoping the good vibes would bring snow. (No such luck. It was in the 50’s and muddy.)
There was also our traditional “white elephant” gag gift exchange and family games. This year we had fun playing “Heads up.”
The real magic of the evening, however, happened in the humble surroundings of hay and animals. There in the darkness of the night, we gathered in the barn, that was lit only with luminaries, lanterns and the glow of the tree, and my father read to us the story of Christ’s birth.
It was dusty, and damp, and…Holy.
For a moment we stepped away from the pile of presents and the shine of tinsel and we returned to where the story all began…
In a simple stable,
with family gathered,
and animals around.
After reading the Christmas story my parents shared with the kids the legend of the animals and the magic that happens each Christmas Eve at midnight….
The Night The Animals Talked
“In the frosty mountains and on the snowy fields of Norway, there is a legend that draws children to all kinds to stables and stalls throughout the country on each Christmas Eve night. They are hoping to hear a miracle. They are waiting to hear the animals talk.
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. This was no abandoned place, but was a working stable, filled with animals of all kinds. Into these humble surroundings, encircled by the innocent creatures of God, the Savior of man came into the world.
Now according to legend, at least, Christ’s birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the new-born babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave voice to the animals and immediately they began to praise God for the miracle they had just seen. This went on for several minutes and, just before the entrance of the shepherds — who had hurried to the stable because angels had told them the Christ had been born there — the animals again fell silent. The only humans who had heard them were Mary, Joseph and, of course, the Christ child.
The legend of the talking animals persists to this day in Scandinavia. And every Christmas Eve, wide-eyed children creep into stables just before midnight to hear the animals praise God for the wondrous birth of His Son. Of course, adults scoff at this. “Old wives tales,” they grump. “Those children should be home in bed, not out in the cold waiting for the family cow to preach a sermon.”
But the children know — or at least believe — that animals really do praise God at midnight every Christmas Eve. And who of us — those who believe in an all-powerful God — can say that it really doesn’t happen.”
(by: Ed Price)
We then read from the book, Manger, which is a compiled series of poems written in the voices of the animals that were there for Christ’s birth, on that holy night. We passed the book around, as we sat on the hay, each taking a turn to read an animal’s poem.
Then we tucked in the animals and said good night. The kids talked of sneaking back out at midnight to listen at the barn door. 🙂
It was then time for bed. Santa’s cookies we placed on a plate, a cup of eggnog at its side, and reindeer food was tossed in the air in anticipation of Rudolph’s arrival.
The little ones were then tucked into bed so that the real magic could begin.