11 Ways to Reuse or Recycle a Christmas Tree

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Put Your Christmas Tree to Good Use!

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To prolong the holiday spirit and also give back to wildlife, how about reusing or recycling that Christmas tree? Here are 11 great ways to give that tree back to nature!

Did you know: According to folklore, it was bad luck to leave the Christmas tree and greenery up past Twelfth Night (January 5)—the eve of Epiphany (January 6)? Traditionally, Twelfth Night marked the end of the 12 Days of Christmas

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?

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 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 that predates the Christmas tree tradition? Learn more about Yule and the burning of the Yule log.

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

About The Author

Tim Goodwin

Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin

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