The Greatest Gifts

As this issue goes to press, the holiday frenzy is just beginning to brew. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am, as I look forward to getting that holiday spirit.

I know that there’s a special meaning to Christmas and that it doesn’t come from a store — but it’s awfully difficult to keep that in mind when there’s so much pressure to buy, wrap, and buy some more. Gift ideas are everywhere and most of them are for big-ticket items. It’s mind-boggling and ridiculous.

I like simple gifts, which often give the most, especially if they’re useful . . . a boar-bristle soft brush, Straight Arrow’s Hoofmaker Hand and Nail Therapy lotion, a leather halter — even a heartwarming book the receiver will want to read again and again, like ”Desiderata for Horse Lovers.” (At $7.95 from Sterling Press, I don’t know how you could go wrong.) Perhaps, though, the greatest gift of all might be the one you give to yourself.

It happens for me every Christmas Eve and it truly awakens the holiday spirit in me. I’m not sure if it’s the peace that seems to settle over the area after 6 p.m. (store-closing time), but I do know it doesn’t happen at any other time of year. The traffic slims down to nothing, and a quiet hush settles over our whole farm.

As we walk to the barn to do evening chores, we’ll notice the clouds from our horses’ breath fill the nippy air — something that was probably there the day before, too, but never got our attention. The horses’ throaty nickers will raise my spirits more than any Jingle Bells refrain, as they gracefully prance through the snow in anticipation of their grain and clean, dry stall. (The next morning, of course, they’ll be pawing and dancing around the stall, too, but it won’t seem quite so pretty.)

Fluffy, the barn cat, will give us a very loud meow when we open the door, expressing his annoyance at it being so late to be fed. Never mind that he weighs 30 pounds and his name clearly reflects his look — he makes it clear he’s hungry. Without that everyday rush pressuring us, we’ll take a moment to play with him (he loves to chase the dressage whip), and we’ll enjoy the music of his his purring in appreciation for his food.

There’s a joyful peace about Christmas Eve at home on the farm that can’t be equaled anywhere else on earth — the warmth of my mare’s coat, the anticipation of watching our crazy dogs leap joyfully into the air when we return from the barn, as if we’d been gone for months. But you certainly know it’s a blessing when you’re loved by your animals with nothing asked in return.

When we close the barn door for the nightand walk through the moonlit snow to our warm house and the evening’s holiday celebrations, I’ll remind myself how lucky I am to live this wonderful life. All of us at Horse Journal wish you the same.

-Cynthia Foley