Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fort McMurray, Family, and Tradition

There are times I write this blog and I am not sure if I am blurring the line between my private life here and that which is a bit more "public". I have written a great deal about things I do here, from galas to dinners, interviews with local people and time spent with non-profit organizations. Today I decided to share something a bit more personal - a bit closer to my life here, but something still unique to my life in Fort McMurray. It revolves around a Christmas tradition we began shortly after moving here 10 years ago, and something we have done every year since. We call it "Christmas for the birds".

When we arrived in Fort Mac my daughter was only 2. That's about the time you start practicing those traditions you hope will stick, and we had several Christmas traditions already, ones handed down to us from our parents and grandparents. I wanted to create a special one just for our family, though, and our close proximity to the forest in Fort Mac made coming up with something quite easy. I decided that every year we would share our Christmas with our feathered friends, and thus the idea of apple bird feeders was born.

The idea is simple - cored apples, coated in peanut butter, dipped in bird seed, and then strung on twine. To keep them from being too messy to handle I freeze them, and then on December 24th or 25th, depending on schedule and temperature, we take a forest walk and hang the feeders in the forest. A simple idea indeed, but one that has come to symbolize Christmas here in Fort Mac.

I suppose it's because you don't have to go far to find forest here. Most years we have lived within close walking access of a forest trail, so the walk to hang the feeders has been not only easy but a joy. Most years we have been accompanied by the family dog, the first few years with our now gone but still-loved Chesapeake, and now with our much more spunky terrier.

Many years we have gone for another walk a few days after hanging the feeders to see what has become of them, and some have remained untouched, others have been pecked at, and some are nothing but loose, empty strings surrounded by deer hoof prints. That's when we realized that something much larger than birds liked these treats, too. That's when it became "Christmas for the animals".

In the early years I made the bird feeders, coring the apples, spreading the peanut butter, and rolling them in bird seed. It's a messy process, and it took some time before my daughter was able to do it. Now, though, the Intrepid Junior Bloggers are pretty much in charge of the entire process from making the feeders to hanging them, too. Every year when I suggest it's time to pick up supplies they get excited - and every year it's a walk in the forest to remember.

And I suppose that's what traditions are all about, whether they are ones begun here in Fort McMurray or elsewhere. You start them and hope that they will catch on, and that they will be embraced. You never know if a new tradition will be a hit or a miss, or how they will be viewed as time goes on. You associate the traditions with the place they started in your life (like Christmas Eve cabbage rolls forever bringing to mind my mother's kitchen). I imagine that the Intrepid Junior Bloggers will forever think of Fort McMurray when they remember this tradition, even if one day they continue to hang bird feeders, but in another place in the world. It will always be linked in their mind to Christmases spent here, in northern Canada, in a place no different than any other and yet totally unlike any other - because it is the home of their traditions.

The most rare of Fort McMurray wildlife-
McMurray Musings and her
Intrepid Junior Bloggers on
Christmas Day, 2011


  1. I think this is an absolutely wonderful tradition! Heck, even as a weekend activity anytime during the winter it's fabulous!

  2. As an avid birder I think this is a fantastic idea!