Christmas in the Northeast is a magical time of year. A time when families get together over warm hot chocolate and home cooked meals to reminisce and tell stories of times gone by. Children build snowmen and ride sleds with their cherry red noses dripping from the cold air. Churches hold midnight services, children put on nativity pageants and we celebrate in our Savior’s birth. Houses are filled with the smell of fresh gingerbread, the sounds of Christmas carols and the laughter of good company.
While much of America is able to slow down, take a break from work and enjoy a nice respite this time of year, there is one who cannot so much as take a day off: the livestock farmer. In fact, winter is one of the more difficult times in the Northeast, as we struggle with freezing temperatures, blizzards and other challenges. No matter how cold, how many feet of snow, how blustery or how much freezing rain comes down, the animals are priority number one. There are no snow days and no looking at the frost on the windows and deciding to roll back over and pull those covers up a little bit tighter. Cows need to be milked, animals need to be fed, calves are being born, waterers are freezing, snow needs to be cleared from paddocks, and the list goes on.
Despite this, Christmas in the country is always a wonderful time of year. When my brother and I were younger and emerged from our rooms at 6 a.m. to see what Santa had left us, it hadn’t crossed our minds that our father had already been awake for hours doing chores so he could watch the magic of Christmas unfold before our eyes. We knew Santa had been there because he always took a bite from the cookies and had a sip of milk, but we made sure his reindeer were properly fed too! They always left behind half eaten carrots and spilled grain so we knew that they had, indeed, been there. I doubt the city kids had this added layer of proof!
As we got slightly older and took on more responsibilities, it became common place that the animals were to be taken care of every day before breakfast, and certainly Christmas morning was no different. We would wake up, put on our long johns and barn clothes, and go to feed the horses, cows, sheep and ducks. Even the animals got a special treat, be it carrots, apples or molasses in their grain. This Christmas chore time was special as I bonded with my brother, our imaginations running wild wondering what treasures awaited us under the tree. We couldn’t help but sneak a glimpse at all the pretty colored packages on the way out the door! Imagine our surprise when we opened the doors to the sheep barn one year and found a snowmobile with a big shiny, red bow on it! You can only guess how we spent the rest of the day – and it sure wasn’t in the house!
Yes, Christmas in the country truly is a blessing…I hope yours is, too. MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!