Harriet and The Night the Animals Talked

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Part 5…Harriet’s story continued from Rescue 911

Have you heard about the legend, The Night the Animals Talked? According to Norwegian folklore, the baby Jesus was born at the stroke of midnight with only Mary and Joseph and a menagerie of stable animals as witnesses to the sacred occasion. The animals gathered round and watched as the babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And then an astonishing thing happened. God gave voice to the animals that night and they began to praise Him for the miracle they had witnessed. Their ability to talk only lasted a matter of minutes – until the shepherds came to worship the Savior. At their entrance the animals fell silent.

This legend of talking animals persists in Scandinavian countries to this day. It is believed that, at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, animals are given the gift of speech.   For 20 years, every Christmas Eve when we get home from Midnight mass, I look forward to walking up the stone path to the barn where our animals are.  Ever since my children were small, I told them that the animals could talk on the night our savior was born and invited them to come with me.  They were too tired from visiting grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and stuffing their faces with holiday bread and ham and kielbasa and thinking about their stockings over the fireplace and setting out cookies and milk for Santa, that never once did they join me.

So, I’ve always taken this time, on Christmas Eve, to think about the first nativity and how Mary and Joseph must have felt.  I sit on a straw bale surrounded by goats who don’t understand, birds who look down from their nests in the rafters, and mice who, on occasion, have run over my shoe as I sit and give thanks in a deeply personal way.  I’ve taken a lot of flack for sitting out in that cold barn imagining the first Christmas.  But let me tell you, there is no more peaceful place on earth than being engulfed in a twinkling black night, filled with stars and being kept warm by animals that nibble your shoe laces and try to pick your pockets, hoping for a carrot.  Every exhale is visual in the cold air and our mingled breaths floated up and slowly dissipated.

Harriet has spent five Christmas Eves tied up in a stable.  I’d like to believe that she could talk to the other dogs she was imprisoned with.  My hope is that they all, on this special night, were comforted.

Tonight, after all the gift giving hoopla and the feasting is over, Harriet and I are are walking down the lane to our big, red barn to sit on a straw bale so I can tell her about her new forever home and the sister who is waiting and how all of her Christmases and all of the rest of her days will be merry and bright.

 

 

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