By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate
Christmas morning. The kids wake up early, rush downstairs, see the presents and stockings that appeared through the night and promptly…walk right past, bundle up and head for the barn. Okay, we may have stopped for a quick peek in our stocking and to read Santa’s note, but that was it. To farm kids, waiting to open presents is a way of life.
My friends who did not live on a farm always thought my parents were practicing a new method of cruel and unusual punishment. I understood, though. On a farm the animals had to come first and you can’t take breaks until they are comfortable and content, with feeding, milking and other jobs done. We never knew when we would get in, but also knew we would get a well-deserved break during the day.
Some Christmas mornings, everything would go smoothly and we would be inside in record time. Other mornings, it seemed to take forever to get in because water lines would freeze, the feeder would break, or a new calf was born.
It was an unwritten rule, though – unless you went in slightly early help make breakfast that you were in the barn until everything was finished.
It was always exciting for us to go out on Christmas morning. Every Christmas Eve, before going inside to get ready for mass, Mom or Dad would leave a large round bale of hay in the yard. We thought the reindeer deserved a treat too, not just Santa.
Every morning, the bale would be gone and only a small pile of loose hay would remain. Santa was sure to thank us in his note for the nice gesture, and one year he even rewarded us by saying we should check on a new calf that was born during the night.
When we went into the maternity area of the barn, we saw the calf. The big surprise, though, was when we turned around and saw a horse. We named her Noelle, and had a great time learning to ride. We were the luckiest kids I knew.
After chores, it was breakfast time with Grandma, followed by gifts. At lunch, we were joined by my family and some close family friends. After we ate there were more presents, socializing and playing with new toys.
On the years we had ice or snow, we would take our cousins outside. Our creek gave us a place to go skating or play hockey, while the pasture had some hills for tobogganing.
By five o’clock, everyone would go home and we would go back out to the barn for night chores. After such a nice day, chores did not seem to take as long. We also could have been working quickly because we knew there was not much of Grandma’s stuffing left over, and we wanted to be sure to get some. Stuffing or not, there was no going inside unless the animals were looked after.
My parents made sure to give us wonderful memories and traditions, so Christmas was always special. Even though we had to work on Christmas, the work always went faster when the family worked together.