Since moving away from my childhood home, adrift from old Christmas traditions, Christmas Eve hasn’t felt the same. This year, however, I’ve created a new celebration that feels right in my gut. It goes beyond words of comfort and cheer; we’ll physically contribute to the lives of those who need help in my community; our local wildlife.
Inspired by the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting, in which a family annually visits a forest to decorate a tree with edible food for the animals, we’ve planned an evening feast for the local wildlife in a meadow by my home.
My children and I spent the past week making edible ornaments made from seed, popcorn, and dried fruits for squirrels, raccoons, voles, and numerous other animals that forage in meadows near our home. We’ve talked about the sorts of foods they will enjoy and how it will move up the food chain. Then, on Christmas Eve, we will walk to our meadow and string our ornaments onto a tree we’ve chosen for the animals. We’ll enjoy hot apple cider and Christmas carols, and once chilled to the bone, we’ll walk home and snuggle into bed. Hopefully, our last thoughts on this special eve will linger not just on upcoming gifts, but imagine our wild animals enjoying their Christmas feast.
Here’s how we made our animal ornaments, based on recipes from The Audubon Society:
- Allow two loaves of sliced bread to stale until the consistency of toast. (Or you can toast the bread in the oven for the same effect.)
- With cookie cutters, cut shapes into the bread.
- Pierce the bread shapes with a needle and thread yarn through the hole. (Birds can use the soft yarn for their nests later)
- Spread all-natural peanut butter (sunflower butter would probably work too if you have peanut allergies) onto the bread.
- Dredge in wild bird seed.
- Dry thoroughly on a cookie sheet (at least one day–two is better).
To make a garland for wrapping around the tree:
- String popcorn, dried fruit, and cranberries onto a long piece of tapestry thread.
You can also string apples onto ribbons and hang them whole from the tree.
Please share your own edible ornament ideas below; I’d love more ideas for our tree!