Have you ever been asked what your all-time favourite Christmas gift was? Not necessarily from this year or last year, but the gift that you recall with greatest fondness from your past. Mine showed up under our Christmas tree about 55 years ago.
Farm life influenced my thinking, my activities, and even my toys as a child. My toy box included miniature farm machinery and farm animals. Over time I accumulated numerous farm animals, all of which had their places on my imaginary farms on the kitchen floor. So it was quite distressing to me when one day, about a month before Christmas, one of my cows went missing.
This cow was either an Ayrshire or a Red Holstein, and she had a calf. Because of their uniqueness, they were special animals in my herd. For reasons I didn’t understand, the cow didn’t take her calf with her when she disappeared. These inexplicable circumstances were quite troubling to me. Curiously my parents didn’t seem to share my concern or have any time to help me look for the cow.
But one day, equally mysteriously, she reappeared. There was no more explanation for her unannounced arrival than there had been for her departure. Nor were my parents any more helpful in explaining how she might have reappeared. But all that mattered was that my herd was again complete.
As was the custom at our house, many gifts were not wrapped and were simply placed under the tree behind closed living-room doors on Christmas Eve. Imagine my delight when on Christmas morning I bolted into the living room and saw a big toy barn under that tree. Because I had two sisters and no brothers, I knew immediately that this was MY gift.
So now the mystery was solved. My parents revealed that my missing cow had spent some days in my cousin’s workshop as he built the barn to fit the cow and all my other similar animals. This was a real barn made of wood, with stalls, pens, gutters, a hay loft, and even a ladder going up the wall to the hay loft. And it was open along one side so that I could access the entire building. Needless to say, my new barn made the temporary distress of a missing cow well worthwhile.
That homemade barn provided many hours of entertainment and joy. And it’s still a part of the memorabilia from my childhood. My grown-up daughter even recalls taking her Barbies to visit the barn from time to time. I think my grandchildren might soon enjoy it, so one of these days I’ll get it out of storage for them to play with as well.
This year my daughter-in-law chose to make many of the gifts she gave to family members. From mittens to hair clips to homemade truffles (which are incredibly good), the TLC contained in these gifts adds something extra special.
The gifts we receive this year may be homemade or may be ones that couldn’t possibly be made at home. But they will hopefully be accompanied by love and affection which is what makes the exchange of gifts at Christmas meaningful. And if this gift-giving spirit reminds us of the gift of Jesus to the world, it’s certainly an appropriate part of our celebrations.
Our offices at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) will be closed from noon on December 24 until Monday, January 11. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the staff and the Board of Directors at MHV.