“Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please to put a penny in an old man’s hat!”


I’ve been known to burst forth in this traditional English carol whenever it’s near enough to Christmas to warrant it. Many moons ago when my children were small, this was my cue to joyfully anticipate the coming of Christmas. I don’t know why I happened on this particular song, though it’s a favorite from past madrigals and perhaps because we have geese.

I was horrified when my mother-in-law suggested we actually eat one of our abundant flock. I never sang that song in front of her again. She tried to persuade my hubby to catch one for Christmas dinner, but he was reluctant and it didn’t ap­peal to her to scamper after them alone, so that’s how the matter was left. The geese lived to see another Christmas unmolested and we had our usual turkey, not a bird I’m the least bit sentimental about.

Eons ago when our son was in grade school and times were particularly tight, I suggested to him that perhaps it would be a good idea to give more hand-made gifts because after all, what was Christmas all about? Wasn’t it enough to con­centrate on the wonder and the real meaning of Christmas? To sing carols, pop popcorn, read stories, make paper chains…simplify.  In other words, “We don’t have much money, son.”

He regarded me impassively for a moment, then said, “You could get a job and we’d have more money.”

I was taken aback. “But my job is being here on the farm with you and Daddy and your sister.  Who would take care of you all and the house and do all I do, if I weren’t here? You’d rather have Mommy here than more money for mere gifts, surely?”

He considered this reasoning, got out the calculator and the Christmas wish book and proceeded to tally up the desired items. He then presented me with his estimated cost. How I wanted to handle it was up to me, but here was his projected budget.

I cast my mind back to when I was a mere nine, sensitive, humble in my expectations and grateful for whatever I received. There was the one moment when an “Is that all?” slipped out of my mouth, but that’s the only ingratitude I can remember.

I’m glad to say my son has grown into a fine young man with a family of his own and is appreciative of all I did as his stay-at-home crazy writer mom.  All three of my children are, and now the grandbabies are excited to come visit and find me here.   Little faces light up and they toddle to me with outstretched arms or hurl themselves at me for hugs.  Precious little people.

Christmas means being with family and friends, treasuring those times, and shared traditions.   And I find  comfort in the enduring truth at the heart of the season, best summed up in the ancient words of the Gospel of Luke.  “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior  which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

*Goose pic by my mom, our dog Mia under the Christmas tree by daughter Elise and my husband took the one of our daughter in law and grandbaby as Mary and baby Jesus in the Christmas program at our church

10 responses to ““Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please to put a penny in an old man’s hat!”

  1. What a beautiful message, Beth. Thank you for sharing your memories. I don’t know the song about the geese though…maybe you would sing it for me next time we see each other – ? :-)

  2. Thanks Leah. We are going on our annual family outing to cut the Christmas tree next Saturday so I won’t be able to make the VRW meeting after all.

  3. A beautiful post.
    Thank you for sharing the warmth, saving the goose, and staying home to care for your children, the greatest gift you can give to the world.
    Bless you and Merry Christmas.

  4. Very heartwarming post. Glad the geese made it. LOL.
    Sue B

  5. Wonderful post. I think it’s our duty to remind our little ones that Christmas is about LOVE and giving of oneself –not tallying how many gifts we get. We’ve got quite a battle because they’re constantly blasted with an entirely different message by every form of media. But I discovered long ago, children learn more from our actions than they learn from what comes out of our mouths. That’s why your babies grew up into such loving adults. They experienced a loving generous set of parents. Peace, joy and love to you and yours, Beth. May your holidays and the coming year be filled with sunshine and smiles. (and that’s one of my favorite carols too!) ;-)

    • Thanks so very much, Maeve. I agree.
      “Love and joy come to you,
      And to you your wassail, too,
      And God bless you, and send you
      A Happy New Year,
      And God send you a Happy New Year.”

  6. My sentiments exactly. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad your geese survived. I, too, love that song and it’s one of the first I think about as Christmas nears.

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