Do You Hear What I Hear?

Every year at midnight, a close-knit family gathers in the barn to listen to the farm animals and share the Christmas magic.

Do You Hear What I Hear? | Country Woman Magazine | Love the Country


Listen carefully at midnight and you might hear the barnyard animals talk.

by April Knight, Federal Way, Washington

When I was 5 years old, everything was possible, especially at Christmas. That Christmas Eve, my three brothers and I sat around the brightly lit and overdecorated tree while Mother brought us hot chocolate and cookies.

“There’s a legend,” she said, “that on Christmas Eve, a wonderful thing happens, but only if you believe.” We scooted a bit closer.

“If you give all the animals extra feed and you’re very quiet,” she said, leaning in, “at midnight, for just one minute, all the animals in the world can talk.”

“The animals can talk?” I whispered. How wonderful!

“If you can stay awake long enough, we’ll all put on our coats and boots and go to the barn later,” Mother promised.

Shortly before midnight, we bundled up and followed Mother into the night, the snow crunching under our boots. The sky was never so clear, the stars twinkling like a thousand diamonds, the moon a luminous pearl.

The animals seemed surprised to see us. We threw hay and oats into the mangers, then stood quietly, holding our breath. Mother pointed at her watch and nodded. It was midnight!

We strained to listen but heard only animals chewing and the occasional snort from a horse.

“I guess we didn’t hear them,” Mother finally said. “Maybe my watch was wrong and we missed it. But we can try again next year.”

We all should have been disappointed, but we brimmed with excitement. Next Christmas, we might be the only people in the world who ever heard animals talk!

The snow sparkled in the moonlight, the pines cast dark shadows, and the icy pond shone like an enormous silver mirror. The boys started throwing snowballs at each other, and Mother and I joined in. It was magical, being out after midnight and playing in the snow with Mother. She seemed so young as we ran after the boys, all of us laughing so hard that we could hardly keep from falling down.

Every year after that, we repeated the ritual. Midnight on Christmas Eve we’d gather in the barn, smiling at one another, waiting for the animals to talk.

We grew older, and still we all walked to the barn late Christmas Eve. The smell of the hay, the warmth from the animals’ bodies, the solid strength of the huge barn—every detail added to this singular moment we treasured in the harmony of farm and family.

The year before my brother left for college, I tried not to cry, knowing our whole family would probably never be wholly together on Christmas again. One by one we moved away, and while we often came home for the holidays, it was never again all of us at once.

After I married and we had children—a daughter and three sons—I began re-creating Mother’s Christmas magic on our small Missouri farm. It quickly became a tradition to take turns saying that the clock must be wrong and we must have missed them by just a few minutes, but that we’d try again next year. Somehow, the years flew by and then it was my children growing up and moving away. Once again, I tried not to cry.

But then more years passed, and before I knew it my first grandchild, Colt, was 5, just as I was that first magical night. My son Pete and his wife, Rebecca, brought Colt and 3-year-old Shiloh, my second grandchild, for their first holiday on the farm that year.

It was early evening when I fixed hot chocolate and we all sat around the Christmas tree. I smiled and said quietly to Colt and Shiloh, “There’s a legend that something wonderful happens every Christmas Eve, but to see it, you have to believe…”

Buster 1 December 18, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Lovely idea to send parcels to soldiers overseas – but who remembers the disabled veterans in their hospitals and homes who have no family to send them anything ?

About the animals luckily quite a few people are able to talk with them all around the year.

Happy Christmas to all.


Judy 2 December 20, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Enchanting story and thanks for sharing!!! Have a Blessed Christmas…


Rebecca Inbody 3 December 28, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Enjoyed it.


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