Unzipping door number eight of the outdoor ADVENTure calendar revealed a roaring fire in the tipi. The candles were flickering, and next to the chair sat a steaming cup of glühwein, and a book. As we fast approach the shortest day of the year, what more could I do than accept that longer, darker evenings outside mean extra time for literary pursuits. After all, there are probably more stories written about Christmas than any other time of the year – multiple reminders of the ‘moral’ meaning of Christmas.
Of course, at A Wild Year, we love a story that weaves nature through its pages. Our choice today was ‘The Christmas Cuckoo’ by Francis Browne. A tale of two brothers who find a cuckoo in their firewood on Christmas day. The cuckoo stays with them until the spring when it has to leave as “There is no country where trees bud, or flowers bloom, that I will not cry in before the year goes round.” However, the cuckoo offers to bring each of the brothers a gift from two trees at the end of the world. One brother chooses to have a leaf from the tree of gold, and the other a leaf from the green merry tree. The arrival of the gifts the following year set the brothers on different paths. I’m sure you can take a guess at the route each path takes, but you can also read the conclusion to the story here.
And what of the cuckoo?
Well, when ‘The Christmas Cuckoo’ was written in the 19th Century, the cuckoo was one of the most familiar summer visitors to Europe. In recent years the species has suffered though, and in the UK there have been growing concerns about its disappearance. The British Trust for Ornithology has been tracking individuals since 2011, and you can follow cuckoo movements throughout the year here (as well as donating to the project, or even sponsoring one of the cuckoos). At present the birds are seeing out the winter months in Africa, which the Christmas Cuckoo may well have preferred over some firewood. But, then what would we have learnt?