Equality and Toleration, Stories

Ligawka and other Christmas traditions

Tut tu tututu, tut tu tutu tu tut!’ The sun hadn’t even started to rise when Rascal was playing his traditional wooden horn called ligawka. The awful sounds of the horn drove away the morning drowsiness from the backyard.

‘Rascal!’ barked Frank from the nearby doghouse. ‘I know it’s Advent and people play on ligawka horns but do you have to do it so early in the morning?! Can’t you allow us to sleep in only this one Advent Sunday?’

‘Heh, heh, heh!’ Rascal didn’t even bother to hide that waking his friends up since two weeks was really amusing. ‘You’d better get up and go to church with me! It’s Christmas in two weeks, we have to prepare ourselves for the birth of the Child Jesus.’

Tut tu tu tu tututut!’ Rascal played his horn once again.

‘Rascal!!! Silence!!!’ yelled the animals from the entire backyard, but Rascal didn’t pay any attention to them.

Rascal’s ligawka was made a long time ago by his grandpa. He had found a thick, bent brunch in the forest and cut it off the tree. Then, he carved it to create a horn. Since then, every man from Rascal’s family was taught how to play it… or at least how to make sounds on the instrument. Every Sunday morning in December someone from the family was coming out in front of the house, breathing in and blowing the horn to the four corners of the world to remind everyone of the upcoming Christmas holiday. But you must admit that contrary to his grandpa, Rascal was doing it exceptionally early…

Not all of Rascal’s friends were spending the pre-Christmas period the same way. Rascal and his family were busy tiding their homes and learning Christmas carols every evening. Rascal’s mum was taking part in Advent dawn masses and two weeks before Christmas, she started preparing Christmas dishes. Pola, who was an Orthodox, was always celebrating Christmas thirteen days after Rascal. When the dog was tiding his house, she was decorating her little Christmas tree. She was postponing all the duties connected with preparing for Christmas to the beginning of the New Year. For Tola, who was from a Tatar family, Christmas didn’t have any significant meaning. So she was spending her free time playing… she only regretted that Rascal and Pola were spending more time at home than with her.

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As a part of preparations, a few days before Christmas Rascal’s mum asked him to clean the whole backyard.

‘Rascal, please, clean everything up here. Throw out all old and useless things but not the way Madam Fashion did – segregate everything.’

‘Of course, mum,’ called Rascal and cheerfully ran out of the house.

Instead of sweeping the snow, getting rid of spiders’ webs and dirt, Rascal came up with a game played with snow skis. He was running back and forth, yelling and waving poles. Suddenly, he accidentally ran into a big pot with bigos, a hunter’s stew, which his mum had placed outside the house. The whole pot with cabbage, mushrooms and plums rolled over and landed on the ground.

‘Rascal! I can’t stand your behaviour any longer!’ cried mum, who came out of the house just in time to see the whole accident. ‘Have mercy! You play your horn only to wake the whole backyard up before dawn and in church you sing out of tune so loud that everyone covers their ears. Instead of helping me in cleaning up, you only misbehave!’ she added, very angrily. ‘Do something good at last! A good deed before Christmas!’

‘Oh mum, but this bigos, it was an accident…’ squealed Rascal. He was truly sorry because he liked bigos very much.

‘An accident or not – it happened. You’d better go find Tola, she’s been roaming around alone. Do a good deed before Christmas. Maybe she will have a better impact on you.’

Mum turned around on her rear paws and slammed the door behind her.

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Rascal found Tola sitting in front of her house, throwing snowballs into a tree.

‘Rascal! How cool you’re here!’ she yelled when she saw her friend. ‘I thought I would die out of boredom,’ she added and threw her arms around his neck to hug him. But she stepped back when she saw dissatisfaction on his face. ‘Has something happened? And why are you here, not with your family?’ she asked, hesitantly.

‘Eh… I’ve stirred up trouble… I’ve knocked over the pot with freshly-made bigos and mum chased me away from the backyard. She told me to do a good deed before Christmas or I won’t get anything to eat during Christmas Eve dinner. Me and good deeds? You know me… it’s not like me at all… but I didn’t want to make her upset… especially before Christmas. I came to you because I thought you would be able to think something up,’ he said, telling her the whole truth.

Hmmm… what can we do, what can we do…’ Tola was wondering, going around in circles and scratching her forehead from time to time.

‘I know! Let’s visit someone who will definitely be lonely during this year’s Christmas. Someone no one remembers about because it’s someone too different, too weird or too dangerous to be friends with. It will be cool to visit someone who is not expecting us at all… and that would be a good deed, for sure.’

‘Who do you mean?’ asked Rascal, intrigued.

‘The Bad Wolf!’ answered Tola cheerfully.

‘The Bad Wolf?!’ exclaimed Rascal, raising his voice a bit. ‘You mean the Wolf that is very dangerous, was in prison and now that he’s old even his own pack doesn’t want to let him stay with them? The wolf who is homeless and wanders in the forest frightening all the animals?’

‘Exactly the one,’ called Tola enthusiastically.

‘Are you crazy? He can eat us, kidnap us or… I don’t know… beat us up!’ snarled nervous Rascal.

‘Don’t be silly!’ protested Tola. ‘I met him last week, completely accidentally. He barely sees anything and is terribly skinny. He can’t hunt for food because he’s too slow and weak, and he has almost no teeth. He is really poor and needs help,’ she added more calmly.

Seeing that Rascal didn’t react, Tola raised her voice, now a bit angry.

‘Do you want to do this good deed for Christmas or not?!’ she asked emphatically.

‘Yes, I want… ok, but let’s do this quickly,’ answered Rascal, resigned and discontent.

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After a few minutes of walking through the snowbound forest, they reached a small burrow. The Bad Wolf was lying right in front of it.

Hrrwrr, who is that?’ snarled the Wolf, when he heard the footsteps getting closer to him.

Tola looked at Rascal with uncertainty, but seeing that he was about to give up and take a step back, she decided to move closer to the wolf.

‘I’m Tola, a kitten, and beside me, there is my friend, a dog,’ she replied.

‘A dog and a cat being friends?’ asked amused Wolf. ‘Ha, ha, ha! Well, that’s interesting company to see. What are you doing here? Hrrwrr!’ he snarled again, his voice suddenly becoming aggressive.

‘We’ve come to ask you whether you need something to eat… or if you want some company before Christmas…’

The Wolf was surprised with this question. He stood up with a lot of effort and gave them a piercing look. His old, wrinkled face was scarier than they had expected. One of his eyes was cloudy, it looked like he couldn’t see anything with it. Despite his age, he still looked like a dangerous animal.

‘Before Christmas? I don’t celebrate Christmas!’ he concluded quickly.

‘That’s okay,’ Tola carried on, moving slowly towards the Wolf. ‘I don’t celebrate Christmas either because I’m a Muslim. Still, we want to help you if it’s possible…’

You help me?! If I was younger, I would eat you both for breakfast!’ The Bad Wolf laughed mockingly and tried to jump towards them, but staggered on his old legs. If it weren’t for his walking stick, he would have certainly fallen to the ground.

‘I think you’re too old to catch us!’ called Rascal sneeringly, seeing the wolf trying to get closer to them. He didn’t even finish the sentence before Tola punched him.

‘You were supposed to be nice! If you won’t say anything kind, I’ll never go anywhere with you again,’ she added, a little angry.

Rascal took a deep breath and, not believing that he was doing this, spoke to the Bad Wolf more kindly.

‘Bad Wolf, I see you must have problems with getting food, so I would like to invite you for Christmas Eve dinner at my house. I live on the dog’s farm in the village. We always leave one spare plate for an unexpected guest. You can come if you want. You will surely find something tasty.’

Everyone fell silent. Both the Wolf and Tola were astonished by what they had just heard.

‘You’re inviting me for Christmas Eve dinner? Me, an old and a bad Wolf?!’ asked the Wolf hesitantly.

He couldn’t believe what he had heard and was still very surprised.

‘What an idea! Phew!’ he snarled, but was less intimidating than a while ago. He didn’t know how to react to such an invitation.

‘You can do whatever you want. Still, I invite you to dinner but I will understand your decision if you don’t want to come. So, see you!’ Rascal added quickly and turned around, pulling his friend after him.

Tola didn’t say a thing on their way back. Inviting the stranger, the poor and old Wolf surely was a good deed… but was it a safe idea? She had doubts whether Racal’s mum will like it…

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Christmas Eve was beautiful as always. Not only did Rascal’s closest family gather at his home, but his distant relatives and friends from the village came as well. Even Tola and Pola, who weren’t celebrating Christmas at that time, came to take part in celebrations. Every opportunity was fair enough to get together.

While Rascal’s mum was serving the red borsch with dumplings to everyone at the table while they were busy talking, someone knocked loudly at the door.

Knock, knock, knock, there was a loud banging. ‘Hallo? Is anyone there?’ They heard a little husky voice.

Mum thought the knock was from an uncle from the distant family, so she ran quickly to the door and opened with a wide smile…

‘Aaaaaargh! Sigmund!’ she suddenly called Rascal’s dad. ‘It’s the Bad Wolf! The Bad Wolf!’ she yelled. She was so scared that she dropped the plate full of dumplings onto the floor.

All dogs gathered at the table started to bark and snarl loudly. Dad, an uncle and Rascal’s cousin run towards the door, and when they saw a huge chunk of wood in Wolf’s hand, they started to yell.

‘Get out before we chase you away!’ called Rascal’s cousin.

‘How dare you scare us during Christmas?!’

The Bad Wolf looked at the group of snarling dogs with fear. Years before, he would have attacked them without a second thought. But now, he was there for a different reason. It wasn’t easy for him to overcome his pride and come to Rascal’s for Christmas. When he realised he wasn’t welcome, he lowered his head. Not saying a thing, he began to back away. He was about to leave when Rascal ran to the door.

‘Bad Wolf, I’m so sorry for such a terrible welcome,’ he cried at the Bad Wolf. ‘Mum, dad, this is the Wolf I told you about. I invited him for Christmas… anyway, you told me that during Christmas we should help even those who don’t deserve it.’

Mum and dad looked at Rascal, astonished. Rascal’s cousin was still snarling for a while but when he noticed the adults hiding their teeth, he calmed down as well.

‘Well…’ Mum finally spoke. ‘Dear Wolf, if my son has invited you for Christmas Eve dinner, then we invite you as well. I am very sorry for our reaction but seeing you with this stick, I thought you wanted to attack me… Rascal told us about the invitation but I was sure he made the whole story up… so… be our guest! An empty plate is waiting for you,’ she said and told everyone to leave the hall.

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The Bad Wolf was confused but Rascal’s mum repeated her invitation a few more times, so he finally went into the house. Rascal spotted that his guest looks a bit different than last time he had seen him. On this Christmas occasion, he had put on a tie and combed his ruffled hair. He wanted to show that he is not as bad as everyone thought…

This was the most unusual and  beautiful Christmas Rascal had ever had. The Bad Wolf turned out to be a really friendly animal. It turned out that the big stick he was carrying was nothing other than… a ligawka horn. The Bad Wolf learned how to play it perfectly while living alone for so long. Everyone was eating, chatting and singing carols until late at night. While the group was waiting for the next Christmas dishes, the Wolf started teaching Rascal how to properly play on the wooden horn. And these lessons were from a good teacher, not a bad wolf.

Questions to careful listeners:

  1. What instrument did Rascal play on during Advent?
  2. What did Rascal do when his mum asked him to tidy up the backyard?
  3. Who did Rascal and Tola decide to visit to do a good deed?
  4. Why was everyone in the forest afraid of the Bad Wolf?
  5. Were Rascal and Tola afraid of the Wolf when they saw him?
  6. How did Rascal’s family react when the Wolf knocked at their door?
  7. Was the Bad Wolf really bad? Do you think Rascal made a good decision to invite him for Christmas Eve dinner? Why?