Is there an official day for taking down the tree?
My partner is not a fan of clutter… if he had his way, it would be swept away already, but our 8 year old who is the walking talking living embodiment of Christmas spirit would not have it.
Some wonderful humans purchased living trees this year from the Pemberton Valley nursery and now have a potted tree to share their living room with until the spring, when they can put it in the ground.
Apparently, Google advises that it is traditional to keep the tree up until 12th Night, the twelfth night of Christmas (I guess that’s when the 12 drummers drumming come by?), which marks the coming of Epiphany, or Epiphany itself, so, the fifth or sixth of January, respectively.
What does this even mean?
Well, apparently, 1500 years ago, in 567, the Council of Tours “proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast.”
This was done in order to solve the “administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east.”
So, you could call it colonization, from some of the original colonizers, the Roman Empire (whose mantle of colonizing was subsequently taken up by the Holy Roman Catholic church.) Which makes me feel all conflicted about my lovely Christmas tree… and so, I google “witchy perspective on Christmas tree”, because “witchy” is code for earth-honouring, which is a sibling to “indigenous”, which feels like my best path to decolonizing my own mind and heart, and coming into a personal and genuine connection with the land around me.
In the pagan world-view, trees are considered the “priests of the plant realms”, with fir trees symbolizing immortality, taking the long view and seeing situations clearly.
Part of the lesson from the tree, writes my witchy source, is that “nothing really dies, it merely changes form. Also, the life-cycle transmutes energy in a chain from the sun to the highest order of organism, but nothing escapes their turn to die: everything in the cosmos will rise, thrive, decline, die, to decay, and nourish the next generation who will rise from their compost.” If one wanted to go deep into the pagan pathways, one could harvest the base of the tree for next year’s yule log, and then on New Year’s day, burn the rest of the tree to light the way and bless the coming year. (If you’re really committed, at Yule the next year, burn the log, and save some ashes. Then at Imbolc, ceremonially use those ashes to bless the Earth into which you can plant new seeds of intention. That would be next-level. :))
I don’t think you have to align with any particular belief system, though, to want to honour the tree and consider whether it can be used, before you throw it on the roof and drive it to the garbage drop-off.
For a start, you could bring your Christmas tree to the Pony parking lot on January 8th between 10:00am and 4:00pm and the Pemberton Lions Club will chip it for charity! Recycle your tree and support your local community at the same time. Trees are being chipped by donation and all proceeds go to the Pemberton Lions Club.
And before you do that, salvage some of the needles (as long as your tree wasn’t ever sprayed… if you got it from under the power lines, it might have been subject to that… so I wouldn’t recommend ingesting it.) There’s a list of great recipes here to try, including conifer needle elixirs (infuse brandy and honey with conifer needles for a really good cough syrup), a shrub or oxymel (a vinegar and honey infused with herbs that spices up bubbly water most deliciously), spice mixes, infused massage oil, incense, bath bags, potpourri or a smudge wand.
There’s something really magical about harvesting the leaves or buds of a tree near you, and turning it into a drink or balm… It’s really easy, and fun, and makes you feel like a kid, (get the kids to help! they do it as natural play anyway), and so empowering and brings you into a feeling of relationship and skilfulness, that I always think my ancestors would be proud of, because they didn’t have Amazon or Walmart, and so they knew how to make-do, and how valuable every scrap of fabric (quilt!), every crust of bread (croutons!) and every seasonal shift was.