How to Reuse Your Christmas Tree
Christmas is a season of darkness and light. The darkness outside as the days are their shortest and the winds are their coldest turns our attention inwards, to tending our hearthfire and homes.
One of the central components of the holiday season is the Christmas tree. For generations we have brought a little bit of the outside in for the holiday season. We wrap trees in lights, throw on tinsel, and bring out those favourite ornaments. But how did this tradition get started?
Plants and trees that remain green all year have held a fascination for people of all creeds for a very long time. History.com tells us that ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows; it was thought the evergreens would help keep away ghosts, witches, evil spirits, and illness.
The Christmas tree tradition as we know it now is said to have started in Germany in the 16th century, when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It is widely believed that Martin Luther began the tradition of placing lighted candles in trees after being struck by the beauty of stars shining among evergreen trees on a walk home.
In 1848, Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert were sketched in the Illustrated London News gathered around a Christmas tree, and like so many other Victorian Christmas traditions, the image was highly influential in promoting Christmas trees as part of a family occasion. By the end of the 1840s Christmas had become a central festival of the Victorian calendar; a time for charity, hospitality, and goodwill to all.
Almost 200 years later Christmas is still one of the biggest holidays in the year, and we all look forward to finding presents under the tree on Christmas morning, and gathering around the lit tree at night to share in goodwill and celebration.
But what do we do with these trees after the celebration is over? The annual parade of trees tossed to the curb is always a little depressing, like throwing out our Christmas cheer and trading it in for wintry gloom and doom.
Fortunately there are other options for your tree that will give it a new life after Christmas. Let’s explore!
“Plant” it in the yard
Here’s one of the simplest options for keeping the spirit of your Christmas tree throughout the winter season: just throw it in the yard!
Meredith Edwards, owner of The Local Bloom in Cobourg, Ontario, gave us this stunningly simple suggestion. “Drag it into the back yard or the front yard, wherever you have a big snow bank, plop it in there, and just enjoy it throughout the whole winter. What’s the point in putting it curbside when you can still enjoy it?”
There’s a couple of upsides to this option. First, your tree will provide excellent shelter for birds and small animals. The Telegraph suggests hanging fat-balls, apples and nuts from the branches to keep your new tree tenants well fed. This is also a great time to break out those pine cones dipped in peanut butter and rolled in bird seed that we all learned how to make in the third grade.
The second upside to rehoming your tree outside is there’s no need to vacuum up dropping needles when your tree is stuck in the snow.
Make coasters from the trunk
Feeling crafty? Want to add some natural beauty to your home? Not afraid of hack saws? This one’s for you!
Let your tree live on as a set of beautiful coasters, which can remind you of the joy of Christmas all year ‘round. We love the DIY instructions from Garden Therapy, who offer a step-by-step guide for transforming your tree trunk.
Have a bonfire
Meredith suggests making a big pot of hot cocoa, inviting over neighbors and friends, and having an outdoor bonfire. The benefits of turning your tree into fire fodder? “There’s no harmful chemicals going into the air, and it is just a fun thing to do outside in the winter when you’re hating winter.”
A few cautions if you decide to set your tree ablaze: first, do not ever burn your tree in your fireplace. The sap in the trunk and needles will create some sparks, which can create a fire hazard indoors. Also make sure the wood is dry before you try to light it.
Cut long branches from your tree and lay them over your perennials, or cut some thinner branches into small pieces and add them to mulch paths between your vegetable beds. This is a great way to offer protection to some more fragile perennials that might need some help surviving the long cold winter, and a cheap and easy way to mulch a path way. Plus it will smell great all winter.
Meredith also points out that the pine needles will actually benefit your garden’s soil. “Needles put nutrients back into the ground,” she said. She added the caution, “Make sure you look up what types of flowers can handle pine mulch. It has a certain acidity that can be harmful for some plants.”
Check out community recycling programs
This one takes a bit of pre-thought, but it’s worth checking out what recycling programs your community has, and whether your tree could be of use. Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management.
Others use shredded trees as a free, renewable, and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of the hikers. The next time you take your dog for a walk in a local park, you could be walking over your Christmas tree! Most of these programs have free drop-off locations or even pickup services, so check out what’s available for you!
DIY Project: Pine Needle Cushions
Want to try a little crafting with your tree, but not quite ready for woodworking? We’ve got just the thing: pine needle cushions. These aromatic little lovelies will keep the invigorating scent of pine close all year ‘round. And they’re so easy to make!
Start with dry pine needles. This will prevent your pillows from getting moldy, and also makes the fragrance more intense. Stop watering your tree for a few days before you harvest the needles to make sure they’re truly dry.
Cover the ground under your tree with a tarp or cloth, and tap the tree on its trunk to shake needles loose. Strip the branches of any remaining needles, starting from the ground up, using glove-covered hands to protect against cuts and scrapes.
You can buy small muslin bags, or make your own bags at home. Choose a light, breathable fabric, such as linen or muslin, to avoid trapping the scent inside your pillow. Cut two 15-inch squares of fabric. Then lay them overtop of each other so the sides line up, and pin them in place. Sew along three sides, removing the pins as you sew. Stitch half of the fourth side, leaving a small opening.
Turn your bag inside out so that the rough edges are on the inside. Fill the pillow by inserting your pine needles through the opening, until it is your desired thickness. Sew up the opening.
Want to see more about Christmas trees, and hear some more tips from Meredith Edwards at The Local Bloom? Check out our Facebook Live video interview with her. Leave us a comment letting us know what you plan to do with your tree.
Have a safe and happy holiday season, and Merry Christmas from all of us at Activation Products!
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