Our family Christmas Eve tradition was to go to my grandparents' house with our cousins and have oyster stew and open a present. To this day this tradition, which is approximately 100 years old, still happens. While most of our parents have passed away, all of my cousins have carried on the Christmas Eve gathering tradition with the next generation.

Coyne katie
Editor / Progressive Dairy – Canada
Coyne also owns and operates Mill Wheel Dairy Show Clinics. She can be reached by email.

While these Christmas Eve memories of years by gone bring a smile, it is what happened later on the night before Christmas that comes to mind as a favourite memory and my own manger story. When we returned home from my grandparents' house, my dad and I would put our warm barn clothes on over our Christmas clothes and walk through the crisp snow and chilly night air to the cow barn. I recall the warmth of the barn in contrast to the brisk air outside. I would sweep feed into the mangers while my dad would feed a fresh batch of hay to the cows. As we left the barn on those cold December nights, I loved the smell of the sweet hay that we had put up in the long days of summer and the sound of the cows chewing it as they ate with no sense of urgency.

We had a tiestall barn with a curved cement manger that was a challenge to sweep out. For some reason, this was quite often my job, even with the cows in the stalls on cold winter days. I’d duck under heads and saliva to get the manger clean for the next round of feed.

One day in grade 1 we were talking about the Christmas story in school, and I was perplexed by the pictures of the barn where Jesus was born and why we were calling that a manger. In my 6-year-old mind, a manger was where cows ate silage and hay; it was hard to clean and very cold cement. I could not picture why Mary would lay Jesus in that spot under cows chewing feed all over Him. I raised my hand and shared my concerns with my class while my teacher stood wondering how to address this concern. Of course, had I thought of the manger in our sheep barn it all would have made perfect sense, as that looked very much like the manger depicted in the stories of Jesus' birth. It still makes me laugh at the entire lesson on mangers way back in grade 1.

As you read through the Christmas section of this issue, please enjoy the stories of Christmas farmer parades to favourite specialty cheese to international gift exchanges to our department writers who’ve shared their Christmas inspiration.


All of us at Progressive Dairy wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2024. We hope you’ll enjoy the season of light shining in the darkness through barn windows. We hope you’ll share a story about your manger and cows munching hay in the warmth of an old barn on Christmas. What an honour it is for us to share that manger and barn space with the Son of Man – just another reason we know farming is the greatest way of life.