This time of year, craft stores sell out of red and green construction paper after just a few weeks. Glue sticks become scarce as black bears. And gold and silver glitter can be found lingering on faces, on sandwiches, and on desks at work for months after the holiday season has passed.
It’s the season of the Christmas craft, and at Reedy Creek Nature Center, the tradition continues with a new twist.
The center will swap paper for pinecones, glitter for nuts, and glue for a heavy dollop of vegetable fat.
This year, Reedy Creek Nature Center will host “Night Tree” Tradition, a family event Corey Sperling, the nature center’s environmental educator, hopes will become a new tradition.
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The hourlong program open to all ages will follow the story of “Night Tree,” a classic children’s tale written in 1991 by Eve Bunting.
In the book, a young family travels into the forest to choose a living tree they’ll decorate with a box full of edible, animal-friendly Christmas ornaments they made at home. After, they spread a blanket on the ground, sip hot chocolate and sing Christmas songs.
“It’s about getting back to the message of Christmas as a time spent with family, and appreciating that,” said Sperling, who said he sometimes thinks Black Friday and Cyber Monday-type events are beginning to edge out the age-old traditions that embrace the true meaning of Christmas.
Sperling uses “Night Tree” Tradition to help pass along that lesson.
“You can really use children’s literature to share a message,” he said. “It’s a good way to reach older children and adults as well, because everyone enjoys a good story.”
Twice this month, Sperling will start the event with the reading of the book. Then people can create decorations – from pinecones dipped in vegetable fat and rolled in nuts and birdseed to strings of popcorn and apple chunks.
Once finished, they’ll go into the forest and choose a tree to decorate.
“It might not be an evergreen tree. It might be a beech tree that still has yellow leaves, or even a tree that has no leaves,” said Sperling. “Whichever one sparks their interest.”
Sperling said the ornaments will provide a treat for the squirrels, birds, chipmunks and raccoons that call the reserve home.
“It’s really just a little snack for them. Animals don’t rely on humans for food,” he said. “I wouldn’t advise decorating every tree in the forest.”
Sperling has spent the early part of this month picking up pine cones off the ground in Reedy Creek Park. The job has been easy since there’s been a bumper crop this year.
“We’ll have different sizes and different shapes,” he said. “Doing what happens in the book and having it come to life shows children and parents that if they have a tree in their backyards, they can do this, too. It’s a time to bond with friends and family.”