Never heard of Tree Dressing Day? Worry not, because we have everything you need to know about it – and it doesn’t just involve putting a couple of baubles and tinsel on a Christmas tree.
Taking place during the first weekend of December, Tree Dressing Day sees people throughout the UK celebrating the wonders of trees by decorating them in public places.
Going back to its roots
Tree Dressing Day has its roots in ancient history, going as far back as the pagan Green Man symbolising the cycle of growth, rebirth and the natural world.
It was revived and modernised in 1990 when nature charity Common Ground took to the streets of Covent Garden and hung 150 large cut-out numbers on a group of London Plane trees at the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and High Holborn.
The stunt needed a lot of planning and permits to be able to pull it off, including tree surgeons, theatre spotlights and a traffic control operation. But it certainly grabbed people’s attention and brought it home to them that “every tree counts”.
Since then, people have been encouraged to appreciate the importance of trees to the world around them by holding events of their own every year. No matter how young or old you are, you can do something to celebrate the trees in your street, park or local woodland.
The celebration, which draws on traditions from all over the world, is a good way of encouraging schools and the wider community to get more involved in their local environment.
Tree dressing around the world
Tree dressing is embedded in the culture of many nations around the world, with rituals held at different times of the year.
In Mexico, pinatas filled with sweets are suspended from trees so children can enjoy the riches that trees provide, while in Chir Ghat, India, women tie pieces of their clothing to the branches of an ancient tree that reputedly witnessed the appearance of the god Krishnato the cow girls.
In Provence in the South of France, hawthorn trees are decorated with flowers and ribbons to celebrate May Day, and in some parts of Russia, villagers mark Maundy Thursday by choosing a young birch tree from the woods and dressing it in women’s clothing.
Ways people decorate trees
Tree dressing in this country is inspired by other cultures, using a variety of materials, which should be as waterproof as possible to avoid getting ruined if it rains.
Lights, ribbons, beads, sweets, pictures and bird food hangers are among the most popular things that people use to decorate their trees, but anything is possible with a little imagination.
In previous years school children have branched out by hanging bamboo lanterns, African-inspired feather mobiles, wish balls with lucky charms attached and decorative rings containing objects found by pupils.
This year, there are many more events for youngsters and their families to enjoy, from decorating a tree that Robin Hood might have climbed in Sherwood Forest to a candlelit procession at Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Chichester.
At this event hundreds of handmade lanterns will be hung from aspen trees.
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