For the Birds Radio Program: How the Raven Saved Christmas
The popular Christmas story
Once upon a time, many many Christmases ago, there was a year when no snow fell in the North Woods. Grownups were happy because they didn’t have to shovel, driving was safe, their cars didn’t get gunked up with road salt, and their kids couldn’t track snow all over the floors.
But the children were sad, because they knew that Santa needs snow to land his sleigh. And the children also knew that North Woods snow is the most important and special snow in the world. Snow that comes out of Lake Superior December squalls has magical properties. It’s so cold and sticks so well that if Santa dusts his sleigh runners in it, it lasts all through his trip. Children throughout much of North and South America depend on this magical snow. What would happen without it?
Two days before Christmas, Santa listened to his weather radio and sighed. It was 45 degrees in Duluth, and the next day, Christmas Eve, was supposed to be even warmer! How could he get presents to all the good little children who believed in him?
Just then there came a rapping–came a tapping at his chamber door, and in walked an enormous Raven. Santa was startled, but the Raven said, “If you can’t ride in your sleigh this year, why don’t you ride on my back?”
Santa climbed on, and sure enough, the Raven took off and flew with him high over the North Pole. They circled twice and landed as easy as pie. Santa was delighted.
Then they tried it with Santa’s pack on his back, but that was just too heavy for the Raven to manage.
Santa asked, “Do you think your Raven friends could help carry the presents?” But the Raven sadly shook her head. “Most Ravens think they’re too grown-up for Santa Claus. I’m afraid Hawks and Eagles are the same way.” But then she brightened. “Maybe our little brothers the Crows can help.”
She flew off and brought back a team of twelve glossy Crows, all cawing with excitement. They each picked up a bundle of toys in their beaks and took off on a practice flight in a wide circle over the pole. That might work!
But one of the crows spied a Snowy Owl sitting on a snowbank and dropped to the ground to scold it. Soon all the Crows were down, every one of them yelling at the owl instead of carrying presents. The Raven shrugged. “I guess Crows won’t work. They’re bound to see an owl somewhere on Christmas Eve, and they won’t be able to stop themselves from mobbing it.”
Santa and the Raven tried Blue Jays next. They were small but tough and wiry, and managed to carry big sacks of presents in their beaks. They were so proud to be helping Santa that they shouted with glee. But the moment they opened their beaks, the packages fell to the ground. They tried again and again, but no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t keep their mouths shut. Santa worried that some of the fragile presents would break if they kept on dropping them.
Gray Jays were much quieter, but their mouths produce so much saliva that the wrapping paper and ribbons got gunked up.
Pelicans packed away plenty of packages in their pouches, but they kept forgetting that the presents were not fish and swallowed them.
Snowbirds were too little to get off the ground, even with tiny packages.
Next the Raven asked Willow Ptarmigans. Their wings flapped powerfully for a short distance, but then they dropped to the ground.
Santa was starting to believe this would really be a Christmas without presents when the Raven suddenly noticed a Tundra Swan standing nearby, watching them. She shyly offered the services of herself and her family.
And that is how it came to be that one Christmas night long long ago, children peeking out of their windows spotted Santa Claus riding on the back of a beautiful and kind Raven, followed by eight graceful swans flying in a ‘V’, each with a sackful of presents tied around its neck for all the good little children who really believe in the Spirit of Giving.
(Recording of a Tundra Swan)
This is Laura Erickson and this Christmas story has been “For the Birds.”