It was early evening of the shortest day and stars glittered in the already-dark sky as everyone gathered at Old Possum’s house to decorate the tree.
A fire crackled in the grate, evergreen boughs and winterberry twigs were arranged on the mantel, and gifts wrapped in leaves and scraps of paper were piling up on the side table. Rabbit set fragrant candles in all the windows (“against the dark,” she said) while, in the living room, the wrens and robins wound Possum’s popcorn-and-berries garlands round and round the tree (and perhaps snatched a bite or two as they worked) and the chipmunk and squirrel children took turns being lifted up to hang antique glass ornaments here and there. The tree was declared complete when Crow flew up to place a delicately carved wooden star, from Old Possum’s grandmother’s collection, at the very top.
And then, of course, it was time for Yule punch and Raccoon’s teeteringly tall, multi-layered chocolate-and-raspberry-jam cake.