Our front room was strictly off-limits for about 10 days before Christmas; the heat was turned off to the room, the door from the living room locked firmly (at least to the hands of a child) and the windows covered by newspapers with no "peeping" room whatsoever, but we all knew when Christmas made its presence known. Its fragrance engulfed the whole house.
Our tree had arrived, still waiting to be adorned in all its finery of treasured ornaments and lights. Breathe deeply of my fragrance and know that Christmas is almost here, it shouted.
It was a time before artificial trees and weary weeks of shopping stress and no self-respecting tree expected to be lit before Christmas Eve, which made its stay with us very short. Each year was the "best" tree ever and each year I loved it totally.
On the feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the end of the journey of the three wise men in Bethlehem, our tree, thanks to my grandmother, began its journey devoid of its ornaments and lights to our back yard.
It had a new mission and purpose. It was a time for God's smallest creatures to celebrate.
She cut strips of suet which we hung on the branches and small seed cakes made with cooking fat that had been saved and pressed with nuts and dried fruit. I was so proud of "my" tree.
The party began and the tree was the center of it all. The birds were as excited and noisy as we were when we opened our Christmas presents. The party lasted for days.
Sharing Christmas with the birds is a memory and a lesson that I hold in my heart to this day.