11 Ways to Reuse or Recycle a Christmas Tree | The Old Farmer's Almanac

11 Ways to Reuse or Recycle a Christmas Tree

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Put Your Christmas Tree to Good Use!

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Twelfth Night (January 5) is the traditional day on which many people take down their Christmas trees and holiday decorations. To prolong the holiday spirit and also give back to wildlife, how about putting that old Christmas tree in your backyard? Here are 11 ways to let nature help you recycle that tree!

January 5 is a less-known holiday called Twelfth Night—the eve of Epiphany (January 6). Traditionally, this marked the end of the Christmas holiday season, and the day on which many people took down their Christmas tree! According to folklore, it was bad luck to leave it up past Twelfth Night (which probably had something to do with dry needles being a huge fire hazard!).

This past Christmas, we enjoyed the scent of real evergreen in the home and decorating our tree with ornaments and lights. If you did the same … What do you do with it now that the Christmas season is over?

Sure, you could just bring it out to the curb or chuck it into a brush pile, but what about trying something new this year? Here are 11 ideas from Almanac editors and readers alike. Add your ideas in the comments, too!

11 Ways to Reuse or Recycle a Christmas Tree

Here are some excellent ideas for recycling that tree:

  1. A Christmas tree makes for a lovely habitat for small birds such as chickadees and finches during the winter months, especially on cold nights and during storms. Evergreens provide important shelter. Prop it up near a bird feeder, another tree, or against a fence. Or, just lay it in your garden for animals of all sorts to enjoy.
  2. Trim the branches from the tree, and saw the trunk into several pieces. Tie the pieces together and store the bundle in the cellar. These logs will make for an aromatic Yule log to use in your fireplace next Christmas Eve.
  3. Use the branches from your Christmas tree as mulch, giving perennials and shrubs extra root protection from winter weather. Just put the cut branches in the garden and they’ll hold moisture in and help build the soil, as well as provide shelter for pollinators and wildlife.
  4. Redecorate your tree as an outdoor bird feeder. String it with a popcorn and cranberry garland or other bird-friendly goodies. Add pine cones filled with peanut butter or homemade suet, too!
  5. Use boughs from your Christmas tree to shade broad-leaved evergreen shrubs from the harsh winter sun and to block out gnawing pests.
  6. Building a house or know someone who is? Nail the tree to the peak of the roof rafters, to bring good luck.
  7. Sew scraps of fabric together and fill them with Christmas tree needles. These make fragrant balsam sachets that can freshen drawers and closets. See how to make (lavender) sachets here.
  8. Collect trees from several neighbors and line them up along your driveway or sidewalk as a windbreak. Anchor them to cement blocks, and bury the blocks in the snow.
  9. Pile Christmas tree boughs around tree trunks to discourage neighborhood dogs from doing you-know-what.
  10. Use dried-out sprigs to ignite kindling in your woodstove or fireplace.
  11. Give the tree to a friend or neighbor who has a woodchipper. Wood chips can be used as mulch!

Of course, you can simply leave the trees in your backyard if you have the room! Over the winter and fall, the trees will decompose. Young Christmas trees, particularly spruce and balsam fir, have very low rot resistance and break down quickly, adding richness to the soil—just as nature intended!

Did you know that Twelfth Night was also the last day for the burning of the Yule log—an ancient tradition which predates the Christmas tree tradition. Learn more about Yule and the burning of the Yule log.

After Epiphany and the end to Christmas merrymaking, folks returned to the regular worklife. Read about Distaff Day and Plough Monday.