December 21, 2005 at 1:35 pm (EST) will be the Winter Solstice. There is a ton of folklore about this time of year but I have my favorite.
Way back in the way backs (a long, long time ago) certain Germanic/Nordic pagan tribes would go in to the forests on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and leave gifts of food tied to trees for the spirit gods of the forest animals. This was to help the animals survive the long winter. (Also it is one of the why-we-have-Christmas-trees myths.)
So being that I have a neopagan streak, I recreate this celebration in my yard. Now, I leave bowls of feed out most of the year. Bowls because Ed, the squirrel and his friend from next door, Psycho squirrel, have destroyed every "squirrel proof" bird feeder I have put out. So, hey, they are creatures of the marsh also, so I feed them all.
On the Winter Solstice, however, they get the good stuff. The bird seed with fruit and nuts. Squirrel food with corn and peanuts and sunflower seeds. For the racoons and possoms, I put out suet cakes (I know, it is technically bird food, but the raccoons love it) and that dried corn on the cob. I even had a couple field mice and a marsh rat show up one year.
They get to gorge themselves silly and carry whatever they can back to their nests.
It's fun. I get out the binoculars and get a great veiw of my backyard wild kingdom.