Whatever Christmas means to you, it sure is a festive time of year! For me, it’s full of memories of love, generosity, comfort, and joy. Wherever I happen to be each Christmas, those are the overwhelming feelings I experience. No wonder this Holiday has taken root in modern cultures all over the world. More recently, I’ve personally connected all of that to the celebration of Jesus, who He is and what He’s done for us!
Now if you’re like me, you don’t actually believe that one man (Santa Claus) and his herd of reindeer are responsible for all the gift giving of this day. Amazing though are the stories of history behind our Christmas traditions. For example, Saint Nicholas. This devout man of God used his large inheritance to give generously and anonymously, wanting the glory to go only to God. Once caught and named as the man responsible for this radical generosity, his reputation grew legendary. He used his reputation and status to stand up to the corruption of leaders in his day and to serve those with need. December 6th became Saint Nicholas day in the Catholic Church, a day of feasting and gift giving. After the reformation, Martin Luther rid the new church of all the saint days which he felt distracted people from Jesus. By popular demand, he did end up compromising slightly and declared the gift giving of Saint Nicholas day would remain but be moved from December 6th to the 25th and that parents should teach their children that all gifts come from the Christ child, or Chriskindl. As the legend of Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, has carried on, so have the changes Martin Luther implemented, including the name Chriskindl (Kris Kringle).
So, all that to say: I don’t believe in Santa Claus as the giver of all the gifts on Christmas. That is, I didn’t, until this morning....
As many of you, I woke up early this morning. I shuffled out of my room and made coffee. As I sat down to enjoy a warm cup of coffee next to a cold, empty fire place, I noticed Theo Farmer outside talking with a big, jolly looking figure. On this farm, unexpected guests at all hours of the day are regular so I hardly thought twice about it. I opened my phone and began the regular perusing through my Facebook feed. Minutes later, a jubilant Theo came through the front door, interrupting my mindless scrolling. “Good morning John! It’s you and I for morning milking, correct?”
“That’s correct”, I replied.
“Okay, let’s get started!”
After dressing for a rather mild Christmas Day in Yoncalla, OR, I walked outside. Behold! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Antlers? Sled? Reindeer?!
“We’re milking reindeer today!”, said Theo. He must have sensed my disbelief because without me responding, he continued, “reindeer have delicious milk, just like cows!”
Too early for critical thinking and in a hast to get through morning chores, I took my position in the pouring room. With a reindeer in the stanchion, Theo began telling me the story of how on Christmas Eve 1976, he had an encounter with the legendary Saint Nicholas that would end in them becoming fast friends.
“You see, jolly old Saint Nick, was having trouble with Dancer. The eight would go left, Dancer would want to go right. Eight would go up, Dancer weighed them down. This led to an emergency landing for Santa. He just happened to be over my family’s farm in Silverton. We were all surprised when we woke up to a knock on the door at 1 am and found Santa Claus on the other side! He explained the trouble he was having and that he was hoping we had some snacks for his reindeer while he thought of a solution. My dad invited him in. We didn’t do raw milk then but we gave him a glass of what we had with some cookies my mom had made the night before. While the adults were talking, I snuck outside to see the reindeer. I heard Santa mention that Dancer was having trouble. When I saw Dancer, right away I could see he was obviously feeling down. It was a bitterly cold night. I knew reindeer produce their own vitamin C, just like cows, but thought that maybe Dancer could use a little extra tonight to fight off whatever had him down. I grabbed some ascorbic acid, mixed up a drink with some baking soda and water, then went back outside. Sure enough, within an hour Dancer was obviously feeling better. We wished Santa a Merry Christmas, and with a Ho! Ho! Ho!, he was off. This morning when I woke up, I saw the reindeer outside and went to visit my old friend, Dancer. I hadn’t seen any of them since that day. Saint Nicholas told me he’s been watching me and he is proud of what we’ve done on this farm. He said he’s been drinking raw milk for many years, ever since he learned about the health benefits! Of course, he drinks reindeer milk. I asked him if I could milk the reindeer while they’re here and share the goodness with our farmshare owners. He said of course!”
“Wow”, I replied, amazed by what I just had learned. “I had no idea.”
After we finished milking, I got to meet Saint Nick, spend some time with Rudolph (his nose turns off during the day), and meet all the reindeer. We each enjoyed a big glass of our raw cow’s milk. Santa is a big fan. We didn’t have any cookies (Kira doesn’t like sweets) so we did up some bacon and eggs. On the way out, Santa asked me to let you all know to help spread the word that he would prefer if everyone would leave raw milk from Helios Farms instead of the store bought stuff next year. He has some trouble digesting the pasteurized stuff most Americans leave out for him (he’s actually started pouring it out, it’s not worth the gas). He also mentioned that the nut alternatives to milk are getting more popular but just don’t do it for him like the nourishing, delicious raw milk we produce. I told him I most assuredly would spread the word.
Anyways, the reindeer could only stay for one morning milking so not all of you will get some. For those that do, enjoy your Christmas treat! This will be a morning to remember.
“May you have the spirit of Christmas which is peace, the gladness of Christmas which is hope, and the heart of Christmas which is love.”