September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Cows and Christmas

By Susan Steinke- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Kurt can be kind of a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I can't say I blame him. It's not the shopping and the crowds and the endless Christmas carols that make him grumpy (after all, I take care of the shopping, and he usually buys my present on Christmas Eve). He likes to eat the cookies and is even willing to pick out a real tree. What gets to him are multiple gatherings that make him have to rush through chores.
Now, don't get me wrong, we love our families and enjoy celebrating Christmas with them. But, we're dairy farmers. The cows don't take a holiday. They need to be milked twice a day whether it is Wednesday, Labor Day, Kwanzaa, or Christmas. When you have family Christmas celebrations that you are expected to attend, you need to squeeze them in around milking the cows, cleaning the barn, feeding silage and all the other chores you do on a daily basis.
When you get married, your number of family gatherings suddenly doubles. When Kurt and I were first married, we had five different family Christmas parties to attend: my mom's extended family, my dad's extended family, Kurt's dad's extended family, my immediate family, and Kurt's immediate family. Those five celebrations took place on three days. Thankfully, my parents and Kurt's parents live five minutes apart, so we did a lot of driving back and forth on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in order to catch all of the celebrations. And, of course, Kurt did chores.
Over the years, as siblings and cousins married, the family Christmas celebrations started to extend beyond Christmas. Eventually our December looked like this: my mom's extended family meets the second weekend in December, Kurt's immediate family gets together the weekend before Christmas, my dad's extended family gathers on Christmas Eve, my immediate family celebrates on Christmas Day, and Kurt's dad's extended family gets together the weekend after Christmas. Celebrating on days other than Christmas might make it easier for everyone to get together, but it was the worst scenario for our farming family: instead of two super busy days, Kurt had three hectic weekends plus Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He'd rather just get it all over with in two days.
Things have improved somewhat in the past few years. The Christmas party with my dad's extended family has dropped away, and we only get together with my mom's extended family every other year. Last year, we only had three Christmas celebrations and this year we have four: one before Christmas, two on Christmas Day, and one after Christmas.
Kurt and I also like to attend Christmas Eve mass and used to attend the one at 10 p.m. It was after chores and after the family gatherings, and just worked perfectly. Then we had kids, and you can't drag young kids to a late night church service and expect them to behave well at the Christmas celebrations you have scheduled for the next day. And with a growing family, we want to have our own Christmas traditions, like opening presents together on Christmas morning.
So, how do we handle cows and Christmas? First of all, depending on the time of the party, we drive separately. That way Kurt arrives when he can and can leave when he needs to without feeling like he is cutting Christmas parties short for the kids. Second, we attend 4 p.m. mass on Christmas Eve, because although it means Kurt will have a late night in the barn, it also means the kids get a good night's sleep. On Christmas morning, we open presents after Kurt gets in, and then I get the kids ready for the next party while he hurries back to the barn to let the cows out and haul manure.
And finally, when the last Christmas gathering is over and the kids are in bed, we plop down on the couch after evening chores with a plate of cookies, breathe a huge sigh of relief, and vow to do it differently next year.

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