“Mom, may we sleep in the barn on Christmas Eve?”
Christmas Eve was the warmest day so far in December. I weighed the extra work and loss of sleep with the memories that would be made.
“Let’s do it!” I told the children. Excitement reigned. Everyone grabbed their own sleeping bag and headed for the barn.
Together we headed for the barn, which hosts Austin’s rabbit with babies, sometimes the horses, sheep, or whatever animal needs shelter- not to mention the issue of keeping mice at bay. The aroma of hay filled the barn as we spread a thick layer over the barn floor. “Fun! Thank you, Mom!” little Joshua sweetly stated. I knew in my heart is was worth it. Hosanna and Joshua fetched a manger for Joshua to sleep in while the three other boys fetched a bail of straw. I headed for the house and fetched a loaf of bread and a pot of chili soup I had heated. Chuckling yet sympathetically, I thought of those olden days; surely Mary did not grab styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons to lighten her load. Oh my, are we too spoiled?
By the time I returned to the barn, the boys were trying to figure out exactly where they would sleep. Austin was busy stuffing hay in the top section of our large V-shaped hay trough and was convinced he was safe sleeping up in there. (This heavy-duty trough also serves as a divider between the horses and the front part of the barn) “We’ll give it some time and see if he doesn’t back out,” I told myself. Joshua was getting situated in the manger, and Jesse had claimed a spot on top of a large square bale. Elijah chose to sleep in a feed barrel which we placed on its side. The girls found comfy spots beside me on the bed of hay.
Supper was next. I beamed at the circle of children all around me. This would be so much what Daniel would have enjoyed- together celebrating simple things. When I lost the twisty tie for the bread bag, Austin suggested I use a piece of straw, which worked perfectly.
“The ducks are going to be our sound machine!” Jesse declared (he prefers sleeping with some sort of sound in the background). I smiled; the loudly quacking ducks were not so amused over the ado and would undoubtedly need to be taken out for the night.
The horses contentedly munched on Austin’s fresh batch of hay, seemingly impressed with extra company.
Austin was sizing up the situation, “I’m throwing more hay on the floor of their stall so they won’t bite me when they eat from their trough,” he declared.
By 6:30, the children were nestled in their spots, and I told them stories of when I was a little girl and how I’d play in the hay and make tunnels with my brothers. I heard a slight rustle outside the door. Thinking it would be Grandpas (who planned to pop in some time) I gave the overhead garage door one big push to open it and welcome them in.
I gasped. How could it be true? A group of neighbors and friends stood there. They burst in Christmas carols. I hopped back into the dimly lit barn onto my blanket next to ‘Baby Jesus’. The children, equally surprised,wore the same expressions of disbelief.
About at that moment, shepherds rounded the corner. We burst into laughter. Never had we seen Grandpa and Grandma like this before!! Their ancient style of dress with long robes (blankets were tied around their head) took the cake, we loved every bit of it. Leaning on his staff Grandpa asked one of the other men, “Have you seen the angels?”
Moving on he asked another, “Have YOU seen the angels?”
“Yes! But not with my eyes.”
That was about it. The angelic hosts could be felt all around.
Soon they were all gone and we were left marveling over it all.
Okay, I’ll need to be moving on and summon the children, now romping in the hay, and get them settled down for the night.
We’ll see what the night holds- I don’t know, I’ll tell you about it once I know myself!
A FEW DAYS LATER: Now chuckling, I fondly think back over that memorable night together and am thankful we have comfy beds in the house. I learned several things that night, such as rabbits’ high pitch squeals and nighttime racing or how Tissa, the pony, out-smarted us in pulling on the rope with her teeth to undo the gate that was meant to keep her out. And yes, Austin slept all night in his trough. When the lights were out, Joshua told me, “I want to be closer to you so I can hug you.” Hosanna was thrilled to take on the roll of Baby Jesus as Joshua snuggled up close to Mama. The stomach flu added its own flair before the night was over. The next morning we had extra things to be thankful for- so many things I usually don’t think to thank God for!
One of the carolers shared this snack recipe with me. They sell large quantities of this snack at their country store, especially this time of the year. Enjoy!
Corny Snack mix
1 1/2 cups popped corn
8 oz corn puffs
8 oz corn chips
12 oz white chocolate
1. Mix together first three ingredients.
2. Melt white chocolate (if desired add a bit of coconut oil, making it a bit thinner and easier to coat snacks).
3. Mix with salty snack mixture.
4. Spread onto a cookie sheet to air dry.
5. When dried to the touch place in air tight container.
Delicious sweet and salty snack!
Gloria Yoder is an Amish mom, writer, and homemaker in rural Illinois. The Yoders travel primarily by horse-drawn buggy and live next to the settlement’s one-room school-house. Readers can write to Gloria at 10510 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427.