Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Christmas Legend

The Night the Animals Talked

When our boys were very young, we bought a set of encyclopedias for them to use to learn more about our world and the things in it. Included in the set were Childcraft volumes. One of those was a volume of myths and legends of the Christmas season. I read these stories and legends to the boys as they grew up. One that always fascinated me was the legend of the animals talking on Christmas Eve.

As I did research on the legend, I discovered many different children’s books written around the tale. That led me to write my own short story about the animals when the boys were older. I hadn’t thought about it for a long while as our children are grown with families of their own, but as I was searching for books for our great-grandchildren, I found children’s books about this legend were still around. That’s when I decided to make it the subject of this blog.

The legend originated in Norway where children were drawn to stables in snow laden fields all around the country on Christmas Eve night. There they hoped to hear the miracle of the animals talking about the birth of Jesus.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph were not in some abandoned place but in a working stable or cave filled with animals belonging to the owner. These innocent creatures, in humble surroundings, witnessed the miraculous birth of the Savior of all men as he came into the world as a tiny baby.

The legend tells us that the baby was born at exactly midnight surrounded by the love of Mary and Joseph and God’s animals. Mary lovingly wrapped the baby in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger to sleep.  At this precise moment, God gave a voice to each animal, and they began praising God for the miraculous event they had seen. The animals worshiped the child until the shepherds appeared seeking the baby.

The shepherds had been told of the birth of Christ and made haste to find the child exactly where the angel had said. As they entered the stall, the animals fell silent. The only ones who heard their voices were Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child. 

The story, passed down through the generations, still persists today in Scandinavia, especially Norway. On Christmas Eve, wide-eyed, expectant children leave their warm beds and creep out into the cold to the stables at midnight in hopes of hearing the animals praise God.

Even though adults, grown out of their belief in myths and legends, scoff and complain about the children being out so late, they remember their own childhood. The faith of the children leads them to believe that animals really do praise God every year at exactly midnight. Who are we to say that our all-powerful God couldn’t make this happen? With God all things are possible, so why not have all of God’s creatures rejoice and praise the Savior as humans celebrate the birth?

Through the years, Christmas Eve has evolved into a magical time of year when all kinds of good things can happen. Some even say miracles abound on this special night. Why not? The greatest miracle of all happened on this night. The Bible gives us a beautiful account of an angel announcing the birth on a starry night to a group of shepherds in the fields with their sheep. Then a heavenly host of angels joined in song to praise the child who would bring peace, truth, and light to a darkened world.

Today we see Nativity sets and the larger ones all feature animals. Cows, donkeys, and sheep all represent the animals in the stable that night when Christ was born at midnight. Nativity sets range from very simple with Mary and Joseph and the baby to very elaborate ones, from simple drawings to beautiful paintings. When you see them this year, think of the animals and how they worshiped the Baby in their stable.

Legends abound about the candy cane, poinsettias, Saint Nicholas, the Christmas tree, and other things associated with Christmas. I love these legends as they tell a beautiful story of that blessed, miraculous night in Bethlehem.

 Do you have a favorite legend or story of Christmas? I'd like to hear it, so please share with me.

 My new Christmas book features a children's play about the Christmas story performed by the children at an orphanage.

Wealthy socialite Florence Middleton admired Joel Fowler when she was a senior student at Oak Dale Bible College and he was a teaching assistant. Now that he’s a full professor and she’s worked with him for several years on various projects for the college, she has fallen in love with him. Joe loves her, but her wealth and standing in the community keep him from declaring that love. When they work together at the orphanage to present a children’s Christmas play, they grow closer, but Joel squelches his feelings for her. Will the magic of the Christmas season and the children’s play be the spark that nurtures the seeds of their love and brings them to full bloom at Christmas?

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to four, soon to be five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.
Find Martha at:  www.marthawrogers.com,
 Twitter: @ martharogers2                                                                                     Facebook: Martha Rogers                                                                                                               


  1. Thanks for the post. And I agree, if God can make the rocks sing praises to Christ, why couldn't He make the animals talk on that night so long ago? But who says it's human language? Fun to think about. Merry Christmas!

    1. I think so, too. Connie. Merry Christmas. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. An interesting post, Martha. The anmials could of been praising God just like Balaam spoke in the OT. I enjoy the legend of the candy cane being a "J" when it's turned upside down. Have a blessed Christmas season.

  3. I love the candy cane legend, too and posted about it several years ago. Merry Christmas and thanks for stopping by.