Talking to the Animals on Christmas Eve

When you were young, did anyone ever tell you that animals can talk at midnight on Christmas? I don’t remember who told me, but I do remember looking expectantly at the family Dachshund for several years. For the record he never said anything, at least not in a human language.

A quick internet search didn’t find much about the origins of this legend. A little surprising and frustrating in this day of easy on-line research. But that does give us the space to speculate and theologize a bit.

There is a longing in children to talk with animals. What else explains the Doctor Dolittle stories? What else explains the long one sided talks with a patient dog or cat. ( Or horse or hamster)

I wonder if that longing isn’t the remnants of the memory of the way things were supposed to be. Somehow as children we know that our relationship with animals is not what is should be. A child should be able to put her hand near the asp. We should not flee from a bear or run from a lion. As children we long for the harmony that we know is missing from the world.

The missing harmony begins to be set right at Christmas. Long before we have the theological language to describe it we know that when Jesus is born, God come among us, the healing has begun. The Good News is here. At the birth of Jesus, the incarnation, heaven and earth are joined. Angels and shepherd sing. And legend suggests that the animals joined in praise. The world set right for a moment. 

The underlying assumption of the legend is that the animals know God and are in relationship with God. Until we get talked out of it, many of us start with the very Biblical assumption that all of creation, everything and everyone, can praise God.   Animals in their animal way praise God and on Christmas we humans may be given a glimpse of the reality of animals.

I’m a grown person now, well past the age of childhood dreams. But yet, I catch myself each Christmas looking at my cats and hoping this is the Christmas they speak. Hoping that this is the Christmas that the world is set right.   May it be so…

27 thoughts on “Talking to the Animals on Christmas Eve

  1. Thanks for the research on this question. I haven’t heard of the legend, but it’s worth a try.

    Merry Christmas and thanks for your gifts of these posts.

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  3. My mother told me that animals talk to each other on New Years eve and if we kids stayed up until midnight, we would hear them talk just like us and we would be able to communicate with them. We never managed to stay up until midnight, no matter how hard we tried. I guess mother knew that getting up before dawn to do farm chores would keep us too tired to ever stay up to hear them talk.

  4. People of different languages speak to each other every day. Not thru translators, but signs and jestures. Why should animals be any different?

    My chair sits beside a window. On the other side, is a flat board on which I put seeds for the birds and squirrels. They are only inches away from me, but somehow they know the window separates us from each other. Just as the glass cage protects me from being bitten by the snake, so the window protects the birds and squirrels from being eaten by me.

    But I am not concerned about our differences. I take comfort in knowing we share the most imortant miricle of all. We give birth, raise and love our children. The lanquage of love is universal. Isn’t that what humans and animals are really talking about?

  5. I first heard about this christmas story in the Christmas movie ..The Homecoming – the pilot for the Waltons TV series. John Boy took his siblings in the barn and told them this story.

  6. Going out to the barn to hear the animals talk was to get the kids out of the house so mom could put presents under the tree.Santa came to our house Xmas eve .

  7. It’s a Polish legend (maybe other countries as well) that animals speak on Christmas Eve, but only the pure in spirit can hear them. A couple years ago on Christmas Eve, my two cats were laying down, gazing at the nativity scene under the tree. Not playing with ornaments just staring. I thought to myself, oh my God, they Know!

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  9. I am 46 years old. And each time I read or think of the animals talking on Christmas Eve, I cry. I don’t know why. But sure enough, the tears come. I think, maybe, on a deep deep level, way down in my soul, I want to believe that this happens.

    Each year I tell myself that this is the year I will be near an animal at midnight to hear them speak. And each year passes without me doing so. But I still believe that they do indeed speak. My wife laughs at me, but that is OK. Inside every man is a little boy.

    I believe that animals do speak to us, just not in human language. And when we listen to them, our bond with them grows deeper.

  10. Every year I wait for my dogs to talk.. Still waiting but I will always listen on Christmas eve at midnight. This is the best legend in my mind. It also gives hope for a miracle.

  11. Grew up on the farm that I still live on in my very old age To say I broke my but caring for the horses and cows is an understatement. I heard this legend on a tv show about a Norwegian family back in the 50s. Every night at midnight I went out to the barn to clean the horses stalls one more time before they bedded down, check their hay and water and give them extra grain if it was cold. Having heard the legend, on Christmas Eve I would go out a little early so all the work would be done by midnight. Then I would sit and wait. Just to hear a “thank you” from somewhere in the barn would have been the greatest event of my life. Never heard a single word. Some 7 decades later knowing that they all lay down every night in a warm barn in clean dry bedding with full bellies is all the “thank you” I’ll ever need

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