Once upon a Christmas Eve, in an ice-white valley far, far, away, eight sleek reindeer waited in a stable.
There was a big beautiful sledge parked in a shed.
There was a barn stuffed full of presents.
But there was something, or rather someone, missing...
Mother Christmas dashed into the kitchen, rocked the baby, stirred the soup, washed some nappies, took the mince pies out of the oven and dashed back out again. She had searched everywhere but it looked like Father Christmas had vanished!
He wasn't upstairs.
He wasn't downstairs.
He wasn't wrapping presents.
He wasn't making lists.
He wasn't getting dressed because his red and white suit was still hanging on a nail by the back door.
Mother Christmas finished off the washing-up, changed the baby and swept the floor. Then she pulled on her warm green woolly jacket and hurried across to the stable. ‘Come on my Beauties’, she called, ‘time to get up.’
One by one, the sleepy reindeer lumbered to their feet and clattered across the yard to the waiting sledge.
Mother Christmas was more than halfway through the harnessing when her missing husband made an appearance.
‘Sorry I’m late’ he mumbled. ‘Had an accident. Hurt my thumb. And my nose. Not feeling so good. Bit of a headache. Maybe forget Christmas this year?' suggested Father Christmas.
'Forget!' cried the astonished Mrs Christmas. 'You can't just decide to forget Christmas!
Father Christmas shrugged his shoulders. 'Whatever. I've got a bad finger you know. Anyway I'm just going off to have a bit of a lie down. Five minutes. I’m feeling a bit …funny.’
Before Mother Christmas could say anything else, Father Christmas tottered unsteadily across the yard; leaving behind a very cross Mother Christmas.
There was a bit of a pattern to Father Christmas and his 'accidents.' They almost always seemed to happen when there was hard work to do. This was very annoying and very tiring for Mother Christmas, because she usually ended up doing the job on her own.
It was a good thing that Mother Christmas wasn’t quite as accident prone as her husband. Although once, near the end of a very long cold winter she did have a spectacular accident. They were cleaning out the muck from the reindeer stable. There was an awful lot of it, in some places it was halfway up the wall. Unfortunately, soon after they started, Father Christmas managed to hurt his arm. So he had to stand and watch while Mother Christmas did all the work. He was just giving her some helpful advice when suddenly Mother Christmas tripped over and pushed Father Christmas right into the middle of the big, steamy pile of reindeer poo! Father Christmas made a terrible fuss. He went on and on about it for weeks afterwards. Anyone would think she'd done it on purpose!
Mother Christmas smiled quietly to herself as she went to fetch the reindeers some food. She stopped smiling when she opened the door of the hay barn and saw Father Christmas, curled up and snoring, fast asleep on the floor.
'Father Christmas do you know what time it is?' she screeched.
'Wake up and do some work, you useless pile of festive bones! '
Father Christmas opened one lazy eye and then closed it again.
Mother Christmas gave him a gentle kick.
He didn't stir.
She prodded him with her hay fork.
Father Christmas grunted and rolled over onto his side.
She even, I am sorry to say, pulled his beard; but nothing would wake him.
Father Christmas snored and snored.
Mother Christmas had had enough. She stomped across the yard, kicked off her boots, made herself a pot of tea, fed the baby, put two mince pies on a plate and then finally settled herself down by the fireside.
‘If he thinks I’m going to go out there and break my back, loading up his flipping sledge, he’s got another think coming!’
Mother Christmas sank back into the soft cushions and bit into a delicious warm mince pie. She was just starting to doze off when the kitchen clock whirred into life and began to chime.
‘Ding! Dong!' it sang 'Eleven-o clock. Ding. Ding.'
Suddenly she was wide awake again. As she listened to the chimes she remembered the weeks and months she'd spent wrapping up presents. What would happen to them if Father Christmas didn't do his job?
All those books that would never be read.
All those toys that would never be played with.
The teddy bears and dolls that would never be hugged.
The balls that wouldn’t be bounced.
'Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!' chimed the clock.
‘O Jingle bells!’ sighed Mother Christmas. ' I can't let those children down.’
She jumped up out of the chair, put on her woolly coat, pulled on her green furry boots and hurried outside.
First she had to grease the runners and then, huffing and puffing, she had to drag the heavy sledge out of its shed...
She had to harness up the reindeer and attach their bells...
Load up all the presents...
By the time she had finished, Mother Christmas felt so exhausted that she could hardly stand up. Every bone in her body seemed to ache. She leaned against the sledge to get her breath back. But she knew she could not rest for long because it was nearly midnight...
So next time it’s Christmas Eve.
And you’re lying in bed, too excited to sleep...
Just close your eyes and listen...
You might hear the distant drumming of reindeer hooves.
And if you’ve got very good ears, you might catch the faint sound of sleigh bells singing out over the rooftops.
When you wake up you might find that there is something a bit different about this Christmas.
You might be one of those lucky children who's got exactly what you were hoping for.
Or you might be really happy because your present is a wonderful surprise.
Maybe what you heard sliding on the rooftops, wasn’t Father Christmas in his fat red suit and long white beard?
Maybe it was Mother Christmas, with her green furry boots and her lovely sparkly earrings...
Doing the job properly
For a change!