“Know why we have turkey or ham for Christmas, instead of chicken?” asked my dog Philo one day. “Or why chickens have three toes?” He paused, “And those little red markings?”
I pretended not to hear.
“Because a long time ago, chickens saved Christmas” He turns his aristocratic nose toward the window, waiting for my reaction.
What!? Is he kidding? What idiot would fall for that stuff?
“What?” I said. “Are you kidding! What idiot would fall for that stuff?”
Thankfully, he doesn’t answer. Instead he tells this story.
Long ago the only chickens in the world lived with Santa at the North Pole.
One Christmas Eve, Santa trudged through the deep snow, past his bright, fully loaded red sled, and into the barn to tack up his reindeer.
There he saw the most shocking sight of his merry life: 12 very tipsy reindeer! Dancer was dancing on two legs, holding beer in his antlers! Prancer was prancing with a bottle of Kentucky Sourmash, Donner and Blitzen were on the floor,… blitzed! And there in the corner, by the full length mirror, sat Rudolf, admiring his now brightly glowing red nose.
“What have you done?!!” yelled Santa. The reindeer, who had been laughing uproariously at nothing in particular, froze. “What have you done!” Blitzen yelled at Donner. “What have you done?!” Prancer yelled at Rudolf.
Rudolf pointed at the mirror and proclaimed soberly, “Isn’t my nose pretty! ”
Santa left the barn in a huff. Now, chickens in those days had flat, single-toed feet, so they weren’t as steady as they are now. They had no red topknots and no red beards. In fact, they were white all over.
Which explains why Santa tripped over Charlie and why Charlie immediately went flying. Boom! He landed on the back of the fully loaded red sled and bounced right onto Santa.
“What’s wrong?” Charlie asked Santa after they both got up.
“Oh my!” said Santa, tearfullly. “The reindeer are sh-h-hnockered! Sh-h-h-mashed!! “ Schnitlzeled!! I’ll never get presents to all those children!!”
Well, that Charlie Chicken, he put one of his stubby little wings on Santa’s shoulder and asked just one question: “How do reindeer fly?”
Santa made sure no-one was listening and then whispered into Charlie’s ear. Charlie ran to the other chickens as fast as his little one-toed feet could carry him. He whispered in their ears. Their eyes got big. “Oh boy!” they exclaimed.
In moments, twelve chickens were in the traces of Santa’s sled. Santa, smiling now, jumped onto his seat, cracked his whip and the chickens churned their stubby little feet….and…got…. nowhere! With only one stubby little toe per foot, they had no traction!
“You have no traction!, “ yelled Santa. No kidding, muttered Charlie under his breath.
Then Santa took his whip and, every so lightly, flicked it at the feet of each of the twelve chickens. There was a slight puff of snow and suddenly each foot had, not one toe, but three, three very sharp toes, perfect for gripping snow and ice.
“Now, on Charlie Chicken! ”, yelled Santa, and off they went, straight into the sky, as fast as the reindeer ever went.
The presents, every one, were delivered like clockwork. By morning, when they got back, the reindeer were lying on the floor of the barn, groaning with headaches and upset stomachs, just like Mommies and Daddies the world over after late Christmas Eves.
To thank Charlie and the other chickens, Santa gave them little souvenirs of the trip: spiky red hats, and floppy little red scarves, which have adorned chickens ever since.
“And that’s why chickens have red markings and why no-one – EVER – has chicken on Christmas” said Philo with the authority only a French Poodle can project.