The miracle of Christmas

I’m a sucker for Christmas. Oh, I could tell you it’s because I didn’t come to Christianity until later in life or that it’s because of faith and hope and such—and both of those things happen to be true—but the truest explanation is simply that it’s shiny and pretty and the closest I come to GOODWILL TOWARDS (HU)MAN all year. It’s festive. And twinkly. And shut up.

So this weekend I was giddy, pulling out the Christmas decorations, setting lights just so, and even placing our faux mistletoe ball in the doorway by the bottom of the stairs. (Why no, I never do tire of a solid month of “KISS ME! KIIIIIIISS MEEEEEEE!!!” every time a child comes skidding to a stop there.)

Last night we fell to decorating the tree, and all was right in my world.

Of course, this year is different, because this is the first year we have a dog. Licorice spent her first couple of months with us being a sweet and charming pup, but one who showed little to no interest in toys or any other objects which weren’t clearly food. Even with food, she was always sort of hesitant and polite about it, like, “Oh, is that for me? Don’t mind if I do have just a little bite, thank you ever so kindly.”

But in the last few weeks, the Real Licorice has begun to emerge. And the Real Licorice? Is FEROCIOUS and MIGHTY and completely hilarious. She attacks her toys with abandon, then rolls around on her back, growling and tossing them in the air. She’s ripped the limbs from her soft animals, and extracted the squeaker from her pig. She proudly presents me with clouds of stuffing yanked from her pets, and has taken to attacking slippers. And food? If it has any sort of scent at all, she gets right up in your face and makes sad velvet-painting clown eyes to convey the vast, searing deepness of her pain and hunger. After a couple of incidents with a flock of wild turkeys (otherwise known as “THOSE GIANT CHICKENS!!”) that likes to stroll through our yard, the family joke is to now narrate Licorice’s every thought beginning with, “Do you have any chickens?”

So, back to the tree: As we began extracting decorations and hanging ornaments, all I was thinking was that I hoped we didn’t have a repeat of last year’s disaster. So we were all handling everything very carefully, and setting things down gently, and I had completely forgotten about the dog figuring into this scenario. We were too busy dancing around to Christmas music and talking about this and that ornament and how little the kids looked in various pictures.

Well. Licorice thought all of this hustle and bustle and all of these new MAYBE CHICKEN items were VERY EXCITING! And she began nosing around and delicately mouthing a variety of ornaments, much to the children’s horror. I’m a quick thinker, so I thrust the giant Ziploc full of various nativity pieces at the children and suggested they work on that for a while, and then I took a break and sat down next to the Christmas tree to have a little chat with my dog.

“This is our Christmas tree,” I told her, “and nothing on it is for eating. NOTHING. It’s just to be pretty.” And here—because I am a massive sentimental dork—I actually felt tears welling up in my eyes. Because Licorice is three years old, and this is her first Christmas with a family! She’s probably never even seen a Christmas tree! She’s never had people so ready and willing to spoil her rotten! MY PRESHUS!!

Naturally, I realized the absurdity of my emotional reaction, so I forged onward. “Licorice, Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. He came to us so that all good little puppies could get presents!” Across the room, Monkey tittered. Chickadee’s head snapped upward in disbelief. “MOM!”

“And Santa comes!” I continued, ignoring my children, who were now paying rapt attention. “If you are very naughty, you get coal. But you’ve been SUCH A GOOD DOG this year, I bet you will get lots of wonderful gifts. Like yummy treats that make your breath less stinky! And new toys! And maybe a GIANT CHICKEN! Except I’m not sure that will fit in your stocking.”

Licorice seemed decidedly unimpressed, so I let her off my lap and she went to investigate what the kids were doing.

It turns out that the kids were setting up the Playmobil Nativity with their own special brand of reverence, which included placing a lamb in the manger in place of Jesus, because Jesus was busy being turned into soup in the pot over the fire. AWESOME. There was much giggling and then Monkey started getting upset because I guess Licorice felt the need to check and see if Jesus was edible.

I called the dog back to me and snuggled her up on my lap again and added, “And also, I almost forgot the most important lesson of Christmas. WE DO NOT EAT THE BABY JESUS. Do you understand? EATING JESUS IS BAD. Very, very bad. You may give everyone kisses, but that’s it.”

Licorice seemed to understand. Or maybe she was just afraid to approach the nativity again, as by now the children had a camel in the manger and a kitten in the cauldron, and Mary had decided to run off with the Wise Men. (Honestly, I don’t know where I went wrong with those kids.)

Eventually it got late and it was time for the kids to go to bed. We got them settled and then Otto and I returned to the couch. We turned out the overhead lights and watched the tree twinkle, enjoying the peacefulness of it all, and petting the dog.

Eventually Otto broke the silence. “Is it okay if I get her one of those giant rawhides?” he asked.

I chuckled. “Yeah, I think it’s okay,” I said. “Jesus came to earth so that our dog could have a rawhide bigger than she is, right?”

“Probably,” he answered.


  1. Megan

    I distinctly remember as a child one year thinking the wise men were a) not wise and b) rat finks because they brought poor baby Jesus myrrh and frankincense and all that and NO PUPPY. Granted I was totally jonesing for a puppy that year (and got two spotted mice – not a puppy but hey, not myrrh either). Fuzzy critters just make Christmas better.

    Scuze me, I have to fish the cat out of the tree again…

  2. Kelly

    Our baby Jesus ends up on top of the manger instead of the Angel (its the Little People one where they all have that indention and can fit on top and play Away in a Manger over and over and over).

  3. Jenni

    Children and Nativity sets are always a source of amusement! When my son was around 2, we spent a lot of time saying things like: “We don’t put baby Jesus in the toilet”.

  4. Nicki

    Ohhhh! I’m so excited for Licorice. And now I’m worrying about my new kitten, Charlie. Surely, Jesus was born to ensure she had nice new toys as well. And surely,she will want to climb the tree, forget about just licking everything…

  5. Noelle

    Your nativity set has a cauldron? We need to get one (a nativity set, not a cauldron), but I’m afraid it will make sentiments such as “We don’t pretend the abominable snowman is eating baby Jesus” and “No, baby Jesus cannot sleep in your bed” echo merrily through our house.

  6. Pam

    I am routinely fishing the Baby Jesus out from under the couch where he gets punted by the 3 year old or the cat. Our cats like to sit on the train track under the tree and warm their buns.

  7. Kai

    Also, watch the “tail height” on your tree. In our house ALL breakable items have to go above puppy tail height or else they succumb to the wrath of violent tail wagging. “Every time a tail wags and angel LOSES its wings” That was the first draft of Miracle on 34th Street.

  8. sassymonkey

    We managed not to break any ornaments this year but we a missing one. A very expensive and sparkly one. We put it someplace safe. I figure we’ll find it when we eventually move, at which point we’ll put it in another safe place and never see it again.

    Hmm we need a nativity. I’m oddly tempted by that Playmobil one. (Oddly because we don’t have children.)

  9. Melissa

    I think we need to purchase either the Playmobil or Fisher Price nativity sets. I received a beautiful ceramic one from Hallmark from my grandmother a few years back (before I had any children).

    Our family Christmas joke: “Please put Baby Jesus down!” And last year we had to break out the super glue. Nothing earns you a place on the naughty list faster that breaking Baby Jesus in half.

  10. Burgh Baby

    I have spent the past few weeks in a state of complete shock and dismay. Our two dogs, who together have combined forces to destroy any and all inanimate objects, do not touch the tree. At all. There have been ten! shiny! sparkly! balls on the floor under the tree for days. Those ten! shiny! sparkly! balls are the ones I wanted to get broken because they are fug and I would happily replace them. It’s not happening.


  11. Half Assed Kitchen

    I’d like a giant waffle bigger than I am.

  12. Mamacita

    I put a Repellem trash bag under the tree skirt each year. The cats will not come near it. It might work for dogs, too; it sure keeps the stray ones away from the actual trash, outside.

  13. Karen

    Good post, Mir. Our new dog..the DANE… is almost bigger than the tree.. So you see.. that tree, is not much bigger than his FETCH sticks… Umm..Houston, we have a problem.

  14. JennyM

    My parents’ nativity set has this camel that is always breaking a leg or a neck or a tail or something, and it’s sort of always been a Christmas tradition to get out the superglue and fix the poor camel.

  15. Crista

    I had to go back and read what happened last year. And I am wondering if the new ornament made it on the tree this year.
    Merry Christmas season!

  16. Tracy

    That’s what I failed to do…have the talk with the puppies. I’m getting right on that, now. Thanks for the advice.

  17. annette

    Actually, eating Jesus is good, very, very good:). See John 6. Maybe Licorice is Catholic!!!!

  18. Shauna

    This is going to be our first Christmas with our dogs and we are SO EXCITED. We don’t have enough room for a tree so we won’t be able to swing that hilarity but OH MY GOD it will be fun to watch them with the wrapping paper :)

    So fab that you got a rescue dog!

  19. Tammy

    This is our puppy’s first christmas too. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about him “investigating” the tree with his mouth, nose or tongue anymore. When I was untangling the lights on the couch, he came up for a sniff and promptly got a shock on his nose! So now lights = bad. And, if lights are on tree, then tree = bad. ;)

  20. Michelle

    You have the best commenters! We have cats, cats who for some reason think that our fake tree is yummy. ??? At least they haven’t knocked it over yet this year.

  21. Karen

    Every child in my family has played dollhouse with the manger folk. And Mary does always seem to run away with a Wiseman or a Shepard. For a virgin she really does get around! ;-)

  22. Angie

    Would it make you feel better to know that my son built a Dalek out of Legos and then made a small film of said Dalek exterminating everyone in the manger before being smited by the baby Jesus?

  23. My Kids Mom

    We currently have Mary riding an elephant and a wise zookeeper looking over baby Jesus in his teepee.

  24. Shelly in Austin

    We have to put our tree on a table because the dog thinks it’s indoor plumbing. Nothing livens up Christmas like dog pee on your presents!

  25. Heather

    I’ve spent the last week telling my new dog, “We do not chase kitties!” She’s been too busy skalking the elusive cats to notice the decorations. Yet.

  26. Heather

    I’ve spent the last week telling my new dog, “We do not chase kitties!” She’s been too busy stalking the elusive cats to notice the decorations. Yet.

  27. Kristin

    When our cat was a kitten she knocked over the tree three times. This year our puppy, however, is doing very well (knocking on wood). Of course we cannot get out any of our Christmas stuffed animals, those would be “unstuffed” in seconds flat!

  28. Katie in MA

    This was one of those posts that makes me want to just tuck you in my pocket and carry you around all day. Truly, truly lovely, Mir.

  29. Wilma Ham

    Kids and dogs got it sussed. They are able to do things differently and get us out of a rut.
    Is that not what they are for? Life would be quiet but oh so boring without them. Did I say quiet and boring in the same sentence? Hmm.

  30. Becky

    Holy cow, Angie, your son is my new favorite person. I might be about to tell my entire hall in my dorm about it. (We’re all giant Dr. Who fans.)

    This is going to be the first Christmas with our kittens (yes, they can be called kittens even though they’re like, seven months old now). I’m sure the theme of this Christmas will be broke ornament.

  31. Scottsdale Girl

    I had to give up on a tree. The badcat would climb it and eventually pull it over, then the other two would bat the ornaments around until they smashed into a wall and broke. I don’t even want to know what kind of damage my 80lb BLIND Australian Shepherd would do to a tree. Oy.

  32. Jan in Norman, OK

    Years ago, I knew someone who hung his Christmas tree from the ceiling to keep it out of reach of his cats.

  33. Kate @ And Then I Was a Mom

    Licorice knows what she’s doing in terms of the nativity. So she nibbles a Wise Man or two. What are you doing to do, yell at her in front of the entire Holy Family? Smart dog.

  34. Mare

    THAT was uncalled for Miss Woulda. Since I’m a pretty recent addict of your tales, I clicked the link about last year’s disaster. I cried like a baby after reading of the snowman incident. Having lost many irreplaceable things over the years, I further understand that it isn’t the stuff as much as the sentiment associated with it. Which is why it takes two hours to put up a tree.

    The sweetness and thoughtfulness of Monkey is exactly the spirit of Christmas that Licorice will learn. She now has a houseful of love and guidance.

    Otto rocks on again.

  35. Lindy

    Given our puppy (who, at almost 90 pounds, it hard to believe that she still is a puppy)(and a total stinker) is so tall and will try eating anything at least once, I decided this year to just put ornaments on the top half of the tree. It looks stupid, but so far, no problems. So far…

  36. Ann Menk

    Our large dog doesn’t bother the tree at all – the only danger would be her tail knocking something off. But for the utmost example of irreverence, listen to this. We always keep our nativity scene and manger under the Christmas tree as a reminder of our greatest gift. One year, our 8 pound lapdog actually peed on baby Jesus! How rude was that? There was a stern talking to regarding that issue, and as far as I know, it never happened again.

  37. Aimee

    Heh. My cats definitely think that Jesus was born to give them sparkly toys and delicious treats. They also are very fond of chewing on the tree and squirreling away ornaments. We had two rabbit ornaments, and now we have one. Our apartment is very small. We have looked everywhere for that darn thing, and it is GONE. I don’t know what they did with it, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to know. I think they ate it.

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