The After-Christmas Tree
When the holiday season has come and gone I don’t know about you, but I always feel a cloud of doldrums in it’s wake. Several months ago I found this gem of a book at our public library’s book sale, which has sparked a new tradition of transitioning out of the holidays and into the new year. The After-Christmas Tree by Linda Wagner Tyler, illustrated by Susan Davis (public library | local bookstore) is a delightful seasonal story about a family that extends the life of their Christmas tree after the holidays by decorating it with food for the winter animals. Quite taken with the story, it inspired our own After-Christmas Tree event, which turned out to be a festive and unique way to learn about the winter animals in our neighborhood…
I spy a Cardinal and two Grey Squirrels! We’ve had many wonderful moments making and watching our own After-Christmas Tree, which I’ll share about in a bit… First, the book!
THE AFTER-CHRISTMAS TREE STORY
The After-Christmas Tree starts with New Year’s Day and the Tyler family is reminiscing about all the fun they had during the holiday season, a season that seemed to had ended all too soon, but mom has an idea. After taking down all the decorations and lights from the tree, the kids made invitations for a mysterious “After Christmas Party”. A party that starts with ice skating and fun outside transitions into a surprise for it’s guests. On the way home, guests were given a bag and asked to collect pinecones on the walk back to the Tyler’s home. When everyone arrives, an announcement is made that everyone is going to decorate the Tyler’s old tree with treats for the birds and wild animals so that they will have enough food during the winter.
Those chipmunks stuffing their cheeks! The illustrations in The After-Christmas Tree are soft and expressive throughout the story and I notice little details on repeat reads. When decorating a real tree come Christmas is the eco-friendly way to celebrate, what a wonderful way to ring in the new year by gifting a Christmas tree back to nature? We thought it was a nice gesture too, so we transformed our own tree into an After-Christmas Tree…
DECORATING AN AFTER-CHRISTMAS TREE FOR WINTER ANIMALS
The glow of a tree is the most enjoyable part of the season to me and I’m always sad to see our little beacon of light and merriment go. When my 5-year-old suggested we make our own After-Christmas Tree after reading the book one evening, I enthusiastically agreed. Just like in the story, we decided that pinecone bird feeders, popcorn garland, cranberry garland, was a good way to go. She helped string the cranberries and make the pine cone feeders, which were made by tying a string of yarn on the top of the pine cone, coating the pinecone with a layer of peanut butter, and then rolling it in bird seed. I made the mistake of trying to string fresh popcorn, but eventually learned that day-old popcorn is the way to go. Once we had enough food for our tree, a couple mornings after New Year’s Day we took our naked Christmas tree outdoors and draped our homemade garlands and hung our birdseed feeders. Oh Christmas tree!
At the bottom of the tree we scattered shelled nuts just like in the story. I also added large rocks in the tree stand so that the strong gusts of Kansas winds wouldn’t knock it over. Once we finished decorating our After-Christmas Tree and went inside, it didn’t take long for furry and feathered friends to find their surprise. It was always a mystery looking out the window… What animal would we see enjoying their new year’s treat?!
Over the past several days, we’ve identified Grey Squirrels (lots and lots of squirrels!), Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, a Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrows, Song Sparrows, a Carolina Wren, and a Dark-Eyed Junco (this book is especially handy for bird identification with kids), as well as whatever nocturnal animals that visited while we were asleep at night. Maybe a mouse or a possum? I wish there was more snow on the ground so we could’ve compared animal tracks. Maybe next year. Today, the tree is bare expect for a few pieces of red yarn and a half a strand of a cranberry garland. In the next couple days, I’ll pull the tree to the curb for our city’s tree recycling pick up. It enjoyed a good, long season of giving.
And I have it on good authority that my family aren’t the only animals that will look forward to this new tradition in years to come.