A tale of true innocence: the Christmas cow

Look at the photo above and tell me what you see.

A cow you say. Yes, obviously. But what else?

A source of milk? A methane-producing beast? How about: the Christmas present that changed my life. Don’t believe me? Read on and find out…

The year was 2006. I was a supremely naive 10 year-old child who believed in Santa Claus and was spending Christmas at her family’s farm. Christmas was my favourite time of year back then, and I used to set an alarm to wake up at exactly 6 a.m. every Christmas morning.

It’s remarkable how vividly I recall rising that December 25th, rushing into the living room only to have my excitement instantly replaced by utter confusion the moment I laid my eyes upon the Christmas tree. With absolutely nothing underneath.

My distress was so great that I did not hesitate to storm into my parents’ bedroom and wake them up with my whining. My mother soothed me with reassurance that Santa had in fact visited; he’d simply left my present “outside”. That word did the trick and with lifted spirits, I hurried to the nearest window.

Peering through the glass, I searched for my gift. To my absolute bewilderment what I saw was nothing more, nothing less, than a cow.

Now a sharper child might have been suspicious, but as we’ve already established, I was a very happy and gullible kid. Although I was completely perplexed by my Christmas cow, it did not cross my mind to question the existence of the bearded old man who magically travelled the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeers. Instead, my first thought was “don’t be ungrateful. It must have been quite a feat to deliver a cow.” That year I hadn’t written Santa a letter, so I couldn’t blame Father Christmas for not getting me something I actually wanted.

I reached the conclusion that it was useful to have a cow at the farm anyway, so I walked over to the barn feeling better about my present, determined to become acquainted with it. I even gave the cow a name – Hazelnut, because that was her colour. How my parents managed to keep a straight face when I started taking Hazelnut on walks, only God knows. But they did and for the entire holidays, I remained blissfully ignorant. Only the following year, did my bubble finally burst.

It was 2007, a few days after my family arrived at the farm for Christmas, when I noticed that Hazelnut was missing from the pasture. I asked my parents about it but they didn’t know where she was either and didn’t seem particularly concerned. At the time, I felt affronted – if their Christmas present had gone missing, they probably would have cared – but in retrospect, I realise that they probably knew exactly where she was. Still, I had no way of tracking down my cow, so I put Hazelnut out of my mind. That is, until a few days later when we were visiting our neighbour’s dairy farm and I spotted her with his herd!

I remember feeling completely baffled, seeing Hazelnut in her new home. Had the neighbour stolen my Christmas cow? Did he intend to give her back? I needed answers, so I walked over to one of the workers and asked him how my particular cow had gotten mixed in with the herd. His answer – that the cow had been bought by his boss, the dairy farmer, several years ago – only raised more questions.
“But last year the cow was on my farm.”
“Ah yea, yer parents borrowed ‘er while you were ‘ere for Christmas last year.”
And that, dear reader, was the beginning of the end.

That initial discovery set off a domino effect. My parents had indeed rented Hazelnut the previous year, because they hadn’t found the time to buy me a present, and returned her after we left the farm. Most importantly though, I discovered a life-altering truth: Santa Claus is not real.

Mariana Avelino

Photo credit: Mariana Avelino