Christmas tree traditions; good recycling ideas

The following are special releases from Richard Hentschel, an extension horticultural educator at the University of Illinois.

History of the holiday tree
Decorating evergreen trees at Christmas is an old German custom that originated along the Upper Rhine. The Christmas tree was brought to America by the troops of Hesse during the War of Independence.

Another ancient account tells of American soldiers setting up and decorating a tree at the wild outpost of Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) in 1804.

In the early 1800s, celebrating Christmas with a tree was still considered an odd foreign custom, practiced primarily by German settlers in eastern Pennsylvania. During the 1850s, the Christmas tree became fashionable along the East Coast, and in 1856 President Franklin Pierce had a Christmas tree brought to the White House as a gift for a group of Sunday school children.

The custom continued to gain popularity, and in 1923 the first national Christmas tree was displayed on the Capitol.

A more complete story of holiday trees can be found at

How to recycle your living Christmas tree
I know you are thinking, “Why is he talking about what to do with the Christmas tree while the presents are still underneath?” “

Well, I might be rushing the schedule a bit, but expecting the best way to recycle the tree makes it easier to keep track of.

Right now, taking care of the tree after it’s been erected and decorated is really making sure there is plenty of water in the tank. If you’ve hosted a family event from tree hunting at one of our local Christmas tree farms, your tree is much cooler and will easily last until New Years, even if you place it first. of the month.

For trees felled months ago, the needles are probably already drying out and the tree is no longer consuming water. These trees should be carefully watched and any heat or flame source, such as a burning candle, should be kept away for safety reasons. Older style incandescent string lights can generate a lot of heat around light bulbs as well, so be careful.

Once the decision is made to fell the tree, you can either recycle the entire tree or use pieces of it for different projects. Here are some ideas:
Persistent branches, twigs:
• Cut off any evergreen branches and place them on your tender perennials or other perennials in the garden that are early spring targets for rabbits. Spring bulbs can also benefit from this rabbit protection.
• Evergreen twigs are also used to collect leaves and falling snow, providing better protection against freezing weather or other weather or wildlife threats.

Tree trunk:
• Use the remaining tree trunk next spring to grow climbing peas or green beans, as you cannot burn the trunk inside in the fire pit because of all the sap.
• However, you can burn this trunk in the outdoor fireplace by summer.
• An interesting idea from the Arbor Day Foundation is to make coasters from the trunk while the wood dries. Something fun could also be “carving” the initials or names of the family. You can varnish or polyurethane them, glue a non-slip bottom or felt circles and you will be ready for that summer iced tea.

Fallen needles:
• These needles that have fallen under the tree in the house are not waste. They can be collected and added to the bin or compost heap or scattered in flower beds on snow or bare soil.

The whole tree:
• If you want to leave the tree whole, tie it to a tree trunk or other structure in your garden. It will provide shelter for the birds, especially if you are feeding the birds.
• Want an interesting project for the kids during the holidays and in January and February? Make edible decorations for the tree that will benefit the birds. Pine cones covered in peanut butter or sunflower butter, and strings of popcorn and fresh cranberries are easy. Tallow balls would be welcome on larger birds, but smaller hands will need help from parents.
• There are also municipal and community tree recycling programs available in many areas if that is best for your family. Remember during gardening season to go pick up and bring home some of the mulch they make from donated trees.

Our old Christmas trees can really give back to nature, so don’t throw them in the trash. There are many ways to recycle and reuse them for practical and even entertaining purposes!

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