Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, we Riskies wish you a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

I’m not religious yet I find the images of the birth in the stable powerful and moving, as is so much of the music associated with Christmas (The Messiah rather than Bing Crosby et al). I can feel the anticipation, the buildup to the big day. Here’s a poem I’m particularly fond of, written by Thomas Hardy in 1915; it’s based on English folklore that animals in the stable fall to their knees on Christmas Eve, as they did long ago in Bethlehem.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen.
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few believe
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder comb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.