Keeping Christmas

(Based on experiences of the author’s family)
I’m happy as can be when I am helping others (Children’s Songbook, 197).

“I wish we didn’t have to take the tree down,” Jeff sighed. “It still looks so pretty.”

“I know it does, honey,” Mom said, “but Christmas was 10 days ago.”

Jeff and his mother carefully wrapped shiny ornaments, bows, lacy stars, and the treetop angel in pieces of tissue paper and put them in boxes so nothing would break.

“Next Christmas we’ll decorate the tree again,” Mom said, “and we can make lots of new ornaments.”

She took the last string of lights off the tree, and Jeff put away the ornaments he’d made in church.

“The empty tree looks lonely. It makes me feel sad,” Jeff said. “I wish we could have Christmas all year.”

“In a way, we can,” Mom said. “Christmas means giving, and we can do that all year.”

“But how?” Jeff asked.

“Well, for one thing, the tree doesn’t have to stay empty.” Mom went into the kitchen and got bread, cranberries, and nuts from the cabinet.

“Let’s take the tree outside and put it near the kitchen window. Then we can put the food on the branches for the birds.”

After Jeff and his mom put on their coats, they lugged the tree into the backyard and trimmed it with the food.

“Now the birds can sing while they eat,” Jeff said with a smile. “What else can we do?”

“Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here,” Mom said.

While Jeff looked out the window at the blue jays and cardinals eating food from the tree, Mom found a notebook. “Let’s make a Christmas All Year calendar,” she said. “We’ll fill it with good things to do that will make others happy. Each month we can do a different project. We did the food tree, so let’s write that on the calendar for January.”

Jeff enjoyed making the calendar. When it was finished, here’s how it looked:

JANUARY—Make a Christmas food tree for the birds.

FEBRUARY—Bake valentine cookies for neighbors.

MARCH—Make snowmen for friends.

APRIL—Plant flowers in our garden.

MAY—Help older neighbors clean their yards.

JUNE—Pick strawberries and give them to someone.

JULY—Have a picnic with our family.

AUGUST—Have a lemonade stand.

SEPTEMBER—Help my teacher keep the classroom neat.

OCTOBER—Have fun raking leaves in our yard.

NOVEMBER—Invite friends for Thanksgiving dinner.

DECEMBER—Decorate the Christmas tree.

“We can celebrate Christmas all year!” Jeff declared as he helped Mom hang the calendar on the kitchen wall. Outside it started to snow, so Jeff put on his hat, coat, and mittens and ran out into the front yard. His neighbors were taking down their outdoor Christmas decorations. They waved. Jeff called to them, “Merry Christmas to you for the whole year!”

[illustration] Illustrated by Val Chadwick Bagley

Food for the Birds

1 cup shortening

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

jute or string

  1. 1.

    In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the jute or string.

  2. 2.

    Form the mixture into five patties, place on a plate, and freeze for 3 hours.

  3. 3.

    Wrap and tie a piece of jute or string around each patty like you were wrapping a gift box (see photograph). Then tie a length of jute or string to each and attach the bird food to tree branches.

Food for the Birds

Photograph by Christina Smith

Our Animal Friends

How does an elephant walk? Boom, boom, boom.
(Stomp feet.)
How does a swallow fly? Zoom, zoom, zoom.
(Hold arms out like bird wings.)
How does a big dog bark? Bow, wow, wow.
(Bark like a dog.)
How do mosquitoes bite? Ow, ow, ow!
(Hold arm like it’s hurting.)
How does a bear sit down? Plop, plop, plop.
(Slowly plop onto the floor or a chair.)
How does a horse trot by? Clop, clop, clop.
(Lift feet up and down.)
How does a milk cow call? Moo, moo, moo.
(Moo like a cow.)
How does a night owl hoot? Who, who, who.
(Hoot like an owl.)
How does a lion sound? Roar, roar, roar!
(Roar like a lion.)
How much do plump pigs eat? More, more, more!
(Pretend to eat fast.)
Are you grateful for animal friends? Yes, yes, yes.
(Nod head.)
We thank their Creator—His name we bless.
(Put hands together as if to pray.)

[illustrations] Illustrated by Val Chadwick Bagley

A Mouse in the House

For each mouse, you will need: a 2″ (5 cm) peeled piece of banana, crushed vanilla cookies, peanut butter, 2 raisins, 1 chocolate chip, 2 almond slices, and 4 pretzel sticks.

  1. 1.

    Roll the piece of banana in the cookie crumbs, completely covering it.

  2. 2.

    Use the peanut butter to “glue” on raisin eyes and a chocolate-chip nose (see illustration).

    Banana mouse

    Photograph by Christina Smith

  3. 3.

    Push the two almond slices into the banana near the top for the mouse’s ears.

  4. 4.

    Stick the pretzel sticks into each side of the face for whiskers.