The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Updated: Feb 2
“Snow's all right on a fine morning, but I like to be in bed when it's falling” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
The truth is that farming is hard work. Taking care of horses (or any livestock) is a 365 day a year job. There are very rarely opportunities for days off or vacations. You can’t just decide you need a break and sleep in or take a weekend off. Most holidays involve taking care of farm chores first before the festivities can begin. Very often, family members must trade off time away from the farm so that there is always someone left at home to take care of the chores. When the whole family does get to take time off together it is truly a cause for celebration!
Despite these challenges, I love the holidays. I love 4th of July weekend with its plethora of open-air country concerts, lazy days at the local swimming hole, and family BBQ’s. During the month of July, we usually host our own Independence Day Community Celebration on the farm. We spread blankets out on the lawn, and place tables under the trees, where families can lay out their BYO picnic baskets. We set up old fashioned games like croquet and horseshoes for the adults, while the kids get to enjoy pony rides and compete in apple bobbing, potato and spoon, three legged, and feed sack races.
Thanksgiving is also a blessing for our family. We usually spend the morning playing a board game in front of the fire, before taking a brisk walk in the crisp fall air, the dogs ranging about around us, to build up our appetites for an enormous turkey dinner. We choose not to go shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, but head out to our local Christmas tree farm instead to cut our tree, a longstanding family tradition which involves a heated debate every year – my daughter and I are on the side of bigger is better, while the boys in our family are more concerned about practicality (cutting it down, transporting it, and fitting it in the house!). Once the all-important decision is made, we head back home and put on Christmas music, serve up some hot chocolate and popcorn, and the whole family decorates the tree.
The week after Thanksgiving is traditionally the week we host our annual Friendsgiving celebration at the barn (a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas party). This chilly potluck is a coat and mittens affair, but it is a lot of fun and a great opportunity for our barn family to celebrate the season together.
For us, Thanksgiving will always be the official start of our winter holiday season and the countdown to Christmas. Because, while they all have their charms, I have to admit that Christmas remains my favorite holiday. I love the piney smell that a fresh cut tree brings into our old farmhouse. I love the odd assortment of ornaments that the family have gathered over the years (the kids each get to pick one new ornament a year) and the warmth of the golden lights strung from its boughs. I love the rich aroma of wood smoke from the fire, pinecones, and scented candles that fills the house. I love carefully selecting a meaningful gift for each of my family members and the sense of satisfaction I get as I place each neatly wrapped package under the tree.
Christmas in our house is a weeklong affair involving a Christmas ballet performance hosted by our local ballet school (it may not be a professional production but the tiny kids in tutus are just adorable), a visit to the bookstore to purchase a holiday book and hot chocolate, a family movie night out, and of course, our Christmas Eve church service.
When the kids were little they would wake us before dawn on Christmas day, desperate to unpack their stockings by the fireplace (filled faithfully by Santa in the late watches of the night). Over the years we have gone to great lengths to keep the magic of Christmas alive - including, on one occasion, hoisting a bicycle up onto the roof, because “Santa” couldn’t fit it down the chimney. Now that they are all adults, I am usually the one to rouse the whole family (at a more reasonable hour) - after I have finished the barn chores and laid out hot cinnamon buns for breakfast. While childhood may lie behind us - and grandchildren still remain a far off hope for the future - the magic of Christmas continues to fill our home as gifts are exchanged and unwrapped, and laughter and love fill the air.