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Christmas Donkeys

I’ve always liked donkeys. It probably began when my favourite aunt paid for me to ride on one on Ramsgate Sands back in the 1930s. So, when I was writing new Christmas carols a few years ago, donkeys presented themselves before me and insisted that I should write something about them. ‘After all’, they said, ‘we’re part of the Christmas story’.

I fell to imagining three of them in their retirement, standing happily together in a field somewhere, chatting about their memories. The oldest one said he remembered carrying a young woman up to Bethlehem. She was about to have a baby.

The second one nodded slowly. He said yes, he remembered carrying that baby when he’d grown to a 12-year-old boy. His name was Jesus. And the third, the youngest, said he could remember carrying that same boy Jesus after he’d grown to a man. Lots of crowds in Jerusalem, he said, all cheering him.

I wrote the carol especially for children’s choirs, with composer John Barnard setting the words to music. Listen to it now, while you read. NOTE:  The version below is the present one; the singers here had a slightly earlier version – a couple of words were changed but the meaning is the same.

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I dreamed that I saw three donkeys

I dreamed that I saw three donkeys 
	all resting by Galilee 
and telling me tales of Jesus Christ 
	who was born on the earth for me. 

‘I carried a girl called Mary 
	and heavy with child was she; 
I carried her up to Bethlehem 
	that a-mothering she could be.’

‘I carried the son of Mary, 
	he rode like a prince, did he;
we travelled the streets of Nazareth 
	and a carpenter’s boy was he.’

‘I carried the Lord of Mary 
	to shouts of a jubilee; 
I carried him to Jerusalem, 
	for the King of the Jews was he.’ 

I’m glad that I saw three donkeys 
	all resting by Galilee; 
they tell me that I must be like him 
	who was born on the earth for me.

Tune: THE THREE DONKEYS
Tom Cunningham