Animals, especially the domestic ones, like our pets and farm animals, and even the wild ones that we encounter, like birds and deer and raccoons and mice become very much part of our human lives. Our encounters with them convince us of their consciousness and relational lives.
It is therefore not surprising that we speculate on their relation to such an important event as Christmas. One powerful tradition is the idea that animals are given the power of speech at midnight on Christmas Eve. The following is from a post on The Company Store's website:
"This tale seems to have originated in Europe and is based in the belief that Jesus was born precisely at midnight as Christmas Eve turned to Christmas Day. This timing is supposed to have created a number of supernatural events, including the animals speaking. While some speculate that this legend has pagan roots, like many of the trappings of the season, it may have also come from the belief that the ox and the donkey bowed down when Jesus was born. Whatever the origins of the tale, it has grown over the centuries and developed variations based on locale.
To be sure there were many animals supposedly present at that first Christmas the way we tell the story today. Those shepherds did not come alone. Their sheep would have come along with them. The wise men came with a retinue of camels. Of course there was the donkey that Joseph and Mary had ridden into Bethlehem on. Then there would have been whatever animals routinely called the stable home, including such creatures as mice and spiders. Other legends also place a dog and a cat in there as well. That would mean that there could have been quite a lot of conversation going on."
There is a lovely story by Elizabeth Goudge, entitled "Midnight in the Stable" about this Christmas miracle.
Aside from the tradition of animals speaking on Christmas Eve, artists over the years have had great fun imagining animals' celebrations and activities around this time of year.
Laughing Elephant has a number of pictures of animals celebrating the season, and we have this year created a box of cards with images of such celebrations. See the Box >