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Midnight Visitors
by Grainne Rowland

It was Christmas Eve in the Galway countryside. Patrick, his young sister Kathleen, and their parents had just finished supper.

"Well," said Mother, "it is time to light the candle. Kathleen, come quickly. It is already dark."

Mother handed the match to little Kathleen. "Kathleen, you know it is the Irish custom for the youngest child to light the Christmas candle. Be careful, now!"

"Mother, why do we light such a big candle on Christmas Eve?" asked Kathleen.

"We light a large candle for Mary and Joseph to see. Perhaps they will come in tonight and rest from their journey to Bethlehem."

"Oh, Mother," said Kathleen, "didn't Mary and Joseph live a very long time ago?"

"Indeed they did," interrupted Father, "but miracles still happen on Christmas Eve."

"And," replied Mother, "do you not remember that only a woman called Mary may put out the candle?"

Patrick said excitedly, "Come on, Kathleen, light the candle! I must go out and make sure the animals have hay for the night. I always like to see the candle burning when I come back from the barn!"

With sparkling eyes, Kathleen slowly and carefully lit the candle. Father watchfully placed the candle in the window.

"Now we will put the bread and jug of milk on the table for any travelers that may need refreshment tonight," said Father. "And, Patrick, remember to leave the door unlatched when you come in, as is the custom on this night."

Patrick went out to take care of the chores in the barn.

The next morning, as the family sleepily came into the kitchen, Patrick hurried to feed the animals.

Kathleen's eyes got huge as she looked at the table."Mother, Father, the bread and milk are gone! And, look! There are fresh roses on the table!"

"What?" asked Mother. "Where in the world did the roses come from? There are no roses anywhere to be found this time of year!"

With wonder in his voice, Father said, "Look, the candle has been put out. And, besides Patrick's, there are tracks in the snow of two people and a donkey."

A minute later, Patrick breathlessly returned to the house."Father, there is a whole barn full of hay! Where did that come from? We had only a few days' worth of feed last night!"

Mother and Father looked at each other with amazement in their eyes."Do you think what I think?" asked Mother.

"It may be," replied Father.

"What do you think?" asked Patrick.

"Only a woman named Mary may put out the Christmas candle. We find fresh roses in the place of our bread and milk. Patrick finds the barn full of hay, and we see footprints in the snow of two people and a donkey. Who do you think came into our home last night?" asked Father.

Kathleen's eyes sparkled as she looked at the roses."Do you think Mary and Joseph were really here?" she asked.

Mother, Father, and Patrick just smiled.

Images: Christmas Roses from All Posters
Candle in window from a free card on Blue Mountain
Mary & Joseph with kind permission from The Jerusalem 30 AD Project

In keeping with the season the next story should be: The Day After.

Index of All Children's Stories


Wed, Jan 3, 2018

FOTA Wildlife Park

Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in their natural habitat and Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork, Ireland, is the world's leading breeder of this endangered species. Fota is among the most modern wildlife parks in Europe. It was opened in 1983 and has more than 70 species living in natural open surroundings with no obvious barriers. Only the cheetahs are behind fences.
Another species which is being saved from extinction at Fota is the white tailed sea eagle. It disappeared from Ireland in the early 1900's, but is now being bred at the park and re-introduced to the wild in Co. Kerry.
Fota is open to the public in the summer and is very popular with Irish families, as well as tourists.

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