Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baboushka: A Story for the Season

This is one of my favorite Christmas stories. I've posted it before, but it's one that bears repeating. How often do we let the routine things in life stop us from doing what we really want to be doing?


An old woman sat in her cottage, thinking about the work she needed to do.  The floors of her home were never clean, no matter how much she swept. There was always dust on her furniture, no matter how hard she tried to keep dust out of her house. Children visited her often and helped her with her chores; all of them called her Baboushka, grandmother, although she had no grandchildren of her own.  She loved having children around her, even if their coming and going meant more dirt was tracked into the house. 

“I must get to cleaning. The day is growing short and the light will be gone soon enough.”Baboushka picked up her broom and began to sweep. In Russia in the winter the days were short indeed, and the sun set soon after it had risen, or so it seemed to Baboushka. 

The moonlight glowed on the snow when she finally put away her cleaning tools and put the kettle over the fire to make a cup of tea. There was still work to be done, but Baboushka sat in her favorite chair for a short rest as the tea brewed.

She was startled by voices outside her door, and a sudden knock that echoed through the small cottage. In the moon’s light she saw three men, dressed in rich clothing. They looked tired, as if they had been traveling a long distance. Behind them the snow glowed and sparkled in the cold night.

“Hello, travelers,” Baboushka said as she opened the door. “Come in by my fire and warm yourselves.”

"We have come a long way," one of the men said as he walked to the hearth. “We are following the star that foretells the birth of a special One. We are seeking the Child who is to be the King of us all. Do you know where we can find Him? We are bringing Him gifts of great worth.”

“I do not know of this Child,” Baboushka told them. “But sit, drink some tea. You look very cold. It is a terrible night to be out.”

The men sat by the fire, drinking tea and telling Baboushka the story of a bright star that had led them from their distant homes to seek the newborn Child. “We must go on now. Come with us, Baboushka! Come with us! Bring a gift for the Child  as we do.”

“Indeed I cannot! The wind would carry me away. And besides, I must take care of my house.”
The three men left. Baboushka watched until they were out of sight, and as she sat down she wondered about what they had said. A Child King? What was this they spoke of? But she thought, “My little house always needs to be cleaned. I do not have time to make a journey!”

Baboushka thought about the three men and their gifts as she dusted. She began to wish she had gone with them. Housework could have waited. She should have gone with them to find the Child.

At last she decided that she would leave first thing in the morning; perhaps she would find the men who had stopped at her cottage and travel with them. She hurriedly looked around her cottage and found a few things she might give the Child as a gift.

In the morning, Baboushka bundled up well, wrapping herself in scarves and shawls and a heavy coat. She placed her gifts for the Child in a basket and walked out of her house, carefully closing the door tight behind her. The snow bit into her cheeks as the wind whipped it into the air but she traveled on. 

Everywhere she went she asked, “Have you seen three rich men traveling by here? Do you know where the Child is that they seek?” 

Sometimes the people said, “No, we know of no such men or the Child of which you speak.” But other times they answered, “Yes! They were here only a few days ago. They traveled in that direction!” 

So she traveled on, but she never found the three men or Child. Some people say she is still traveling to this day. She finds little children sleeping and looks to see if they might be the One she is seeking. But she is never sure, so she leaves the child a gift just in case.

Today children in Russia wake up on Christmas morning and find that Baboushka has visited while they slept, and that she is still searching for the Child and the three men. They know because she has left a gift for them, just in case they might be the Child she seeks.

Illustrated with public domain photos.

For more about Russian Christmas traditions, visit Russian Christmas

And try a taste of Russia with the recipes at

Now, all we need is a little snow to really get us in the "Christmas in Russia" mood!


Ronda said...

That story has been a favorite of mine since I discovered it in a literacy class. And the illustrations, mesmerizing! I just completed 40 yrs in education, including 8 yrs as a bd member with my last meeting having been on Tuesday. (no tears) While I accomplished some things near and dear to my heart, I also watched as other bd members voted to do away with two librarians, a low point for me. It's a sad state of affairs when budgets dictate the elimination of school literacy programs but the athletic dept rages on! OOPS! I vented.

Suzanne, thanks for the story! That kind of thing makes our lives richer.

Please send me your snail mail addy!

Granny Sue said...

I feel the same way, Ronda. I appreciate the importance of athletics but I fear these are taking over. That's one reason I wanted to start an open mic and a writing group for teens in my county--there is little here for the arts-minded people. Thank goodness for the local library!

momalizzie said...

What a great story, I can't believe I've never heard it before, but I truly enjoyed reading it! Thanks G-Sue!

Janet, said...

Nice story,Susanna.

Granny Sue said...

Can you see the results of polishing at writers group, Janet? :) Thanks for your input.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

I come for the stories......
I stay for the magic...........

A Blessed Yule......

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Mimi! And blessings back to you :)

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