Christmas on the farm was magical when I was growing up. It wasn't because we got large quantities of fancy gifts under the tree or went to lots of Christmas-related events. It was because my parents made it special. As a farming family they took the circumstances they were in and figured out how to make Christmastime a memorable event to look forward to every year. Let me share with you what a typical Christmas Eve and Christmas Day looked like for my family when I was young.
View of the family farm. The section of barn where the row of lights is visible is where the cows are milked.
Since we lived on a dairy farm and cows must be milked twice a day, we often worked through school vacations and holidays, including Christmas. But what made it okay and actually really special was that we worked together. We even developed tricks to get chores and milking done faster since there were four of us out there working together. Most Christmases the hired help wasn't able to milk Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because of obvious reasons (their families wanted them home!). But Dad said he didn't mind, and in fact he actually enjoyed milking on Christmas Eve in particular. He always said the most holy place to be that night was in a barn. Just typing that makes my eyes misty. Because I always think of that every Christmas, and there is something really special about that perspective. I always imagined all 50 cows in the barn kneeling in their stalls before the fresh hay in the mangers after we flicked out the light on Christmas Eve.
Cleaning the manger with my Dad.
When my sister and I woke up on Christmas day the house was usually very quiet, because our parents were already in the barn milking. We'd pull on our barn clothes and tiptoe down the stairs and reverently peek into the living room, where presents would be under a lit tree. My favorite part was peeking at my stocking to see what was sticking out of the top.
Out in the barn we were greeted by those wonderful barn smells and "Merry Christmas!" wishes from our parents. Together we worked to finish up milking and chores, and then we got cleaned up and had Christmas breakfast with my Grandmother, who lived in an attached house to ours at the farm.
Then, finally, after opening presents with Grandma and visiting with her, we'd finally (did I say finally?) return to our house and open gifts as a family, starting with stockings of course. Mom would have a special lunch and dessert prepared, and then we'd spend the afternoon resting or playing with new toys or gadgets until we heard Dad on a tractor outside, indicating the start of evening chores. Slowly, and a bit reluctantly, we'd pull those barn clothes back on and head out to the barn. Out in the barn we cranked the Christmas station on the radio, turned on the colored lights that sometimes got wrapped around the pipeline near the milkroom (and sometimes still does), and work together as a family. Once chores were finished we enjoyed a simple meal or just snacked for the supper meal, and sometimes put on a Christmas movie before reluctantly ending one of the most magical days of the year.
These days at the home farm the next generation gets up on Christmas morning and heads out to the barn to smell wonderful barn smells and wonder if the cows knelt before the manger on the previous night. My husband and I take care of our own small herd 8 miles away in our barn, and as I flick off the light every Christmas Eve and my nose is hit with the cold and crisp December air from outside, I am wondering the same thing.
I hope you can make your Christmas special in your own way, no matter your circumstances. And don't forget the reason there is a Christmas day - Jesus coming to earth is better than any tradition, gift, or circumstance. We don't need anything else.
Merry Christmas to you and yours! Love, Lindsay
Pretending the stanchion is a horse. Note the baling twine stirrups and bridle :)