Christmas Story: The Concert of the Animals

Christmas Story: The Concert of the Animals

Rebroadcast of the show Effervescence THE December 24 at 1 p.m. and December 25th at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Listen again on

The first time I heard it, I thought it was a wolf: there are many in the mountains of Armenia. He had the same melancholy and melodious song, which gives you the shivers. Night and day, the dog howled to death. There was something infinitely sad in his voice, as if he wanted to share a great sorrow on earth as in heaven. Around him, everyone was crying. The grasses, the trees which were losing their golden leaves, and the last flowers their stained petals.

The dog belonged to our priest, Father Armen. A bearded giant who had disappeared since the attack on the village. The animal was still stationed in the same place, in front of the church, a building almost a thousand years old perched on a hillock, which the Artsakh war had transformed, the day before, into a pile of stones and rubble. Only the rotunda and the drum, and therefore the choir, were still standing.

For centuries since our enemies have tried to eradicate them, the churches of Armenia have been accustomed to this. After their attacks, they play dead. It is sometimes believed that they have been destroyed forever. But they never die. God accompanies them as they accompanies our country. Even when our enemies knock them down, they always get back up.

The resurrection of stones is a specialty of Armenia, the country of eternal churches. When enemies invade us, they always expect the worst and they are right. Not content with destroying, massacring, stealing and raping, like all the invaders, the green soldiers are attacking them, particularly on the crosses of Christ which they are breaking with all their might.

For them, it’s like a game: judging by their laughter when they do this, they’re having fun. The day of the attack, after having devastated the church, shooting at several houses and killing a few people on the fly, the green soldiers left very quickly, leaving behind them large clouds of dust: they still had a lot of work elsewhere. .

Fortunately we lived at the foot of the hillock, three hundred meters from the church. Otherwise, the howling of the dog would have been unbearable. But where it was, the animal could not disturb anyone. Besides us, only the cloudy sky could have complained about the noise.

The animal was called Noun, that is to say sheep, because of their white, curly coat which, like that of some shepherd dogs, makes them look like the animals they are supposed to guard. From a distance, the mimicry was striking. He barely raised his head. There was something fatalistic about him.

No matter how much I talked to him or petted him, nothing stopped his howls. His tail didn’t even wag when I went to feed him the first evening, against the advice of the grandfather who lives with us – my wife, my children, my cows and me. The old man took the opportunity to tell me once again that my weakness, that is to say my pity, would ruin me one day. “A dog like that, he no longer wants to live, he told me, he has even decided to die. That’s what he’s trying to make us understand. You’re going to prolong his unhappiness when “it would be better to end with a gunshot.” “Don’t you think about it!” I was indignant.

A week passed. As autumn lost its colors, the cold began to bite our hands, feet, and ears, but that didn’t discourage Noun. Every day, at the end of the afternoon, I brought him a pot of red beans and potatoes. With us, it’s a principle, we don’t eat meat: we love animals and we don’t eat those we love. The dog quickly swallowed his pittance, as if he had been deprived of food since the day he was born and, as soon as the last mouthful was eaten, he began to howl again, sparing himself only short breaks to sleep. I would have liked them to be longer.

At home, I felt a mutiny brewing: we all slept very poorly. “You have to find a solution,” Anouch, my wife, the seventh wonder of the world, with hair black as obsidian, said to me one day. “This dog is putting us through terrible torture. Everyone in the family , is going crazy.” “Me too,” I replied. “Why don’t you put some sleeping pills in his evening meal?” she asked. “That would give us a good night’s sleep.” I did not answer.

I became concerned when, the same day, a heifer named Astrid came to add her voice to that of the dog. It belonged to a couple of neighbors whose husband, a reservist, had died some time earlier on the front. “This animal is in mourning,” the widow explained to me. “Her mother having died after giving birth, it was my husband who raised her. She doesn’t want to listen to me.”

The young woman asked me to help her bring her heifer home to her stable, but the animal wouldn’t listen. She was even more stubborn than a donkey. Nothing could prevent him from accomplishing his mission: to endure his pain endlessly while waiting for the impossible return of his master.

The following days, when the snow had covered the village with its large white shroud, a horse, a sheep, a sow, a goat and a rooster joined Noun. Everyone was crying loudly for the dead or missing from the village. The press and television seized the story, and the animals became the attraction of the region, where people came on pilgrimage to attend their concert, without forgetting to give them fodder, stale bread, oats or wheat.

My wife no longer complained about the noise. She had a genius idea that allowed us to take advantage of the situation. In addition to the rest, Anouch was the queen of zhingyalov hats, these delicious Armenian “pancakes” filled with a mixture of semi-cooked herbs from Artsakh, and, with our children, she began to make them on an assembly line. for the pilgrims who were starving in the cold of December. Grandpa was running the cash register. Business was going well. I continued to take care of our eight cows and my small production of braided cheeses which we also sold to people passing through.

The event occurred on January 5, the day before Epiphany, the equivalent of your December 24th. As I was leaving the stable where a calf had just been born, I heard a car stop then leave before seeing a shadow approaching the house. I didn’t recognize him right away. It was snowing hard and we couldn’t see a drop in the white mist that fell on us. It was Father Armen, our priest. He had lost a lot of weight and his nose was crooked. “What happened to you ?” I asked. “A work accident,” he joked.

I invited him to come to our house where Anouch offered him room and board until the snowstorm passed. He ate a little avelouk – dried sorrel with garlic and pomegranate seeds – which my wife had prepared for the traditional meal the next day, as well as two portions of gatnabour, a walnut dessert and with dried fruits. While eating, Father Armen told us what had happened.

After being taken to a camp, he was molested and humiliated for several weeks by the green soldiers, who ended up using him as a bargaining chip. “I discovered that I was worth a lot of money,” he laughed. “Ten enemy soldiers, that’s what Armenia offered for my release. Not bad, right?”

He hadn’t finished his story when there was a knock at the door. It was Noun, who threw himself on him and greedily licked his face, yapping, while the priest kissed his forehead, his muzzle, his mouth. “Noun did everything he could,” said Father Armen. When the green soldiers entered the choir of the church which had resisted the mortar fire, they found the priest on his knees, trying to pray in front of the altar. Before starting to destroy everything in what was left of the church, they had asked Father Armen to get up and go out, as if his presence bothered them. After shrugging his shoulders, he continued to pray. One of the soldiers had slapped him, another had viciously pulled his ear.

The priest still continued to pray. “Forgive me,” he said to them, “I was born for this and I don’t know how to do anything else.” The green soldiers got angry. One of them punched him in the face and broke his nose. Father Armen got up and started fighting. They were eleven to one. While trying to defend his master, Noun found himself on the ground, knocked unconscious by a rifle butt, left for dead, his head bleeding.

“We must forgive them,” our priest commented. “They don’t know what they are doing.” After his story, Father Armen, who was having a good run, drank three glasses of Ararat, the Armenian cognac, then he refused our bed that we offered him and lay down on the floor, on the tiled floor of the dining room. . There was no way he was going to sleep anywhere else. He asked me to stay with him while he undressed. After he removed his sumptuous black clothes, I discovered his secret: underneath, he always wore a robe woven from a very uncomfortable material. It was not horsehair, like that of Jean d’Odzun in his time, but Indian jute. “This is my true garment,” he said. “The one with which I will appear before God.”

The next morning, when we woke up, the snowstorm had stopped and there was a great, immaculate silence: the concert of the animals had stopped, they had all dispersed. I accompanied Father Armen to his house where he checked that nothing had changed, then we went together to the church. Seeing it on her nipple, as if sculpted in the sky, it was stronger than me, I was speechless for a moment before letting out a cry of joy. “It’s Christmas !” I exclaimed.

I knew that Christmas, the day of all possibilities, had passed, but its spirit still remained and the word had spontaneously slipped out of my mouth. Father Armen seemed to find the spectacle before us normal, but I couldn’t believe my eyes. Under its blanket of snow, the church was as before the attack of the enemies, resplendent, new as a spring morning, as eternity itself had frozen it. Miracles like this happen all the time here, in Armenia, the country which has “resurrection” in its blood.

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