Go Ahead – Call Me Chicken

Posted: December 14, 2011 in family, fiction, Holidays, humor, Life, storytelling, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Galinhan Christmas delicacy

Fresh-baked Christmas chickens...mmmmm!

Each Christmas, possessed by the spirit of the season, I drag out the recipes of my ancestors and my dented baking sheets and make cookies. I’m no Martha Stewart but I am fairly proficient in the making of three varieties: chocolate chip, chocolate crinkles and cut-out sugar cookies.

A few holidays ago, two friends and I were discussing a possible cookie exchange for which I offered up my sugar cookies. Due to my questionable reputation as a cook, I felt compelled to “sell” them on my wares, touting their crispiness, delicate flavor and variety of shapes including stars, angels, reindeer, snowflakes, chickens…

“Did you say chickens? You make chicken-shaped cookies for Christmas?”

“It’s a family tradition. I got the cookie cutter from my grandma.”

“Sweetie, people don’t make chicken cookies for Christmas.”

“Sure they do. Why would they have a chicken in the Christmas cookie cutters then?”

“It was probably for Easter and just got thrown in with the Christmas stuff.”

“Who makes Easter cookies?”

The ribbing about the chicken cookies continued for weeks and spread throughout our circle of friends, providing all with an extra source of holiday merriment at my expense. In retaliation, I penned the following tale, presented to my two friends in book form along with a bag of Christmas chickens. For your holiday reading enjoyment, I present to you…

The Legend of the Christmas Chicken

It was early Christmas morning in the tiny country of Galinha and Santa Claus was in trouble. He paced behind his sleigh in a gloomy clearing near a small dark lake known as Fisker’s Pond. The crisp moonlight shone on the deep gouges in the ice where the sleigh had first crashed before bouncing like a skipped pebble up the snowy hillside. The reindeer shuffled their feet and snorted nervously. Santa seldom yelled at them but this time, they had it coming.

“How many times do I have to say it?” Santa said. “When do we feed the reindeer? When we get home Christmas morning. Why do we wait until then? Because food weighs them down. And when the reindeer are weighed down, what can’t they do? Fly, they can’t FLY! Well?”

It was the baklava. Their last stop before crossing the border was a cheery hamlet that was home to the greatest baklava factory in the world. While Santa was busy delivering gifts, Blitzen led the charge on the factory’s dumpster. By the time Santa returned, four reindeer were on their sides, bellies bloated; fueled by a massive sugar rush, two others chased a third around the parking lot; and the last reindeer was feverishly scratching an outbreak of hives caused by an allergy to nuts and gluten.

Knowing that Galinha was their last stop and he couldn’t leave the people there without any Christmas presents, Santa gathered up the reindeer, hooked them to the sleigh, and they took off. Twice in the short trip, the sleigh and its crew and cargo nosedived towards earth, the baklava-laden reindeer unable to keep themselves and the sleigh in the air. Finally, they crashed on the lake and bounced to the clearing.

Stupid reindeer, Santa thought. I need to get this sleigh moving. But how?

“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…”

The voice coming from beyond the trees was beautiful, with an incredible range running from a soaring soprano to a booming bass. As the song ended, a large white chicken appeared at the edge of the clearing.

“Santa?” It said in surprise.

“Uh, good morning.”

The chicken peered at the sleigh and the sick reindeer surrounding it. “Need some help?”

Santa glared at the reindeer. “Yes, I do. Is your master with you? The person who was singing?”

“I used to have a master, some time ago. Fisker, his name was, Dornan Fisker. This is what’s left of his farm, and that beyond is his pond.”

“But, then who was singing?”

The chicken shrugged his feathered shoulders. “Me.”

“What a glorious voice you have! I have never heard that carol sung with such beauty and in so many octaves.”

“Thank you, Santa,” the chicken said proudly. “I can sing in whatever key or octave I want to, for you see, I’m a free range chicken.”

“You’re obviously very talented and while I would love to hear more of your wonderful singing, I’ve got Christmas gifts to deliver to the good people of Galinha and no one to pull my sleigh. Is there perhaps a farm nearby with horses?”

“I’m sorry but the closest farm is miles away. I live by myself in the old stone barn up the road. The only other creatures around here are a family of rabbits, a stray crow or two, and a den of foxes who love nothing more than to chase me.”

Santa’s shoulders slumped. “I’ve never not finished my Christmas deliveries. There MUST be someone who can pull my sleigh.”

Suddenly, a twig snapped at the edge of the clearing. “Why, what have we here?” a sharp voice said.

In slunk a plump red fox, quickly followed by seven others. Glancing slyly first at the chicken and the large bearded man in the red suit, they turned their attention to the herd of reindeer guarding the sleigh. Donner and Vixen pounded their front hooves in warning and when the others followed suit, the foxes saw they were outgunned and made no further advance.

“Good morning, Mr. Fox,” Santa said. “It seems from my list you’ve had a somewhat spotty year when it comes to being good.”

The fox laughed. “Santa! I didn’t recognize you. Are you taking a break in our fair woods?”

“The reindeer are sick and he needs someone to pull his sleigh,” said the chicken, turning to Santa with a twinkle in his eye. “Too bad this mob can’t help you but alas, they are only foxes.”

The head fox’s ears pricked up. “ONLY foxes? Why, we foxes are the quickest, most clever animals in all of Galinha. We can do whatever we put our minds to!”

The chicken poked Santa in the ribs with a feathery elbow. “Surely, you’re not clever enough to put on those reindeer harnesses and buckle yourselves in.”

Santa smiled. “Even the reindeer can’t do that without help from the elves.”

The fox whistled sharply and his clan quickly moved into two neat rows in front of the sleigh. They stepped into the harnesses, and within minutes had the buckles fastened.

“Ha!” said the foxes. “See how quick we are?”

The chicken nodded. “That was quick. But you don’t really believe you foxes can pull that sleigh? Not with all those gifts and Santa on board?”

“PULL it? Of course, we can pull it! ” And to prove it, the foxes trotted around the clearing pulling Santa and the sleigh in large, neat circles.

The chicken whistled appreciatively. “VERY nice. But there’s no way you can pull it across the whole of Galinha in a few short hours so Santa can make his deliveries. Surely you can’t do THAT because you are, after all, only foxes.”

The lead fox said menacingly, “Chicken, better say your prayers, for my brothers and I are going to snap your neck and eat you!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” And with a wink at Santa, the chicken began to run. The foxes gave chase and the sleigh flew like the wind out of the clearing.

For the next few hours, the chicken ran as fast as he could, leading the foxes and Santa’s sleigh from one end of Galinha to the other. Those few Galinhans who were up at that early hour were no doubt shocked to see the large white chicken outpacing the wiley foxes who pulled the big red sleigh with the fat cheery driver doling out presents as fast as he could.

Pale gold light grazed the ice of Fisker’s Pond when the exhausted chicken led the road-weary foxes back into the clearing. The whole troop, feathered and furry, dropped to the ground as Santa stepped from the now empty sleigh.

“My friends,” he boomed. “You’ve done it! You’ve saved Christmas for the people of Galinha!”

Only then did it dawn on the foxes what they had done. Basking in the glow of the jolly man’s praise, their anger was diminished, and soon they were high-fiving each other and prancing around the clearing. Santa approached the chicken, who stood with his head down, panting.

“And YOU, my feathered friend. How can I ever thank you?”

The chicken thought for a moment. “You know, Santa. Most of the time, people make fun of us chickens. If there was some way you could get us some respect, that would be the best gift of all.”

Santa smiled. “My friend, from this point on, the noble chicken will be a true symbol of Christmas, as important as the Christmas tree and angels and reindeer and even me. And wherever people celebrate Christmas, they will remember the chicken who saved the holiday for the people of Galinha!”

The story of the mysterious chicken who saved Christmas was soon told and retold in all of Galinha and it wasn’t long before an enterprising young baker began making a Christmas cookie shaped like a chicken, selling it during the holidays. The idea spread into the homes of Galinha and still to this day, the Galinhans’ favorite holiday treat is the Christmas Chicken.

Which is why you should never laugh at people who show their Galinhan pride by baking chicken-shaped Christmas cookies…bitches. The End.

Recipe available upon request. So how bout it, readers? Any quirky holiday traditions you care to share?

  1. Kaitlin says:

    …”I’m a free range chicken.”

    I headdesked SO hard. haha, this was great! We didn’t do anything more crazy than hiding the pickle and a little box with chocolates in it.

  2. Rita Weatherbee says:

    Loved the story of how the chicken saved Christmas! And my mouth is watering over them there cookies. Can’t think of anything too quirky we did as a family. My favorite holiday tradition is the Christmas basket, where everyone brings a bunch of unwrapped inexpensive items and trinkets mostly from a dollar store. We throw everything in a big basket in the middle of the floor, everyone draws a number and then we go around in circles according to our numbers and get to pick one item at a time from the basket. Sometimes we end up going 4-5 rounds. it’s a blast, people eyeing particular items and then shouting out insults when it gets taken before their turn. Lots of laughs. More fun than opening the traditional gifts.

    • I like your Christmas basket idea. If I had a bigger group for the holidays, I might steal that! Be great at a holiday party, too. Hmmm, can I throw a gathering together in the next week?!? Merry Christmas to you and yours, Rita!

  3. I was going to suggest that maybe the cookie cutter was a french hen, like from the song The 12
    Days of Christmas, and not a chicken at all, but I like your story MUCH better. Our lackluster traditions bow to yours!

  4. ottabelle says:

    This is so cute. 🙂

  5. Food memoir is by far my favorite category of memoir, and this, combining a parable/tale/fictionalized piece, is a lovely example of solving a problem many students bring to me in a class I teach on memoir — that of throwing in some “story” amid the memoir. Nicely done. And funny. And I, too, have a chicken cut-out, and I use it at Christmas. Now I’ll need to get a fox. Write on.

    • Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Glad to hear you have Christmas chickens, too. On the fox cutter, I’ve got a reindeer cookie cutter that with a little antler pruning might fill the bill. BTW, enjoyed your interview with Jeff Goins; that’s how I find your blog. Happy holidays to you and yours.

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