Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yulemas Tree; Putting the 'Pagan' back in 'Tree'...

I grew up with real Christmas Trees. Sometimes we choose them from farmed options at someone's house (Debra who lead Girl Guide's actually), sometimes we went to the Morton family tree farm to cut our own down and once we even went on Crown land to chop down a giant fir tree for our cottage.

Decorating the Christmas tree has always been one of my favourite parts of the holidays. Even after I moved away for school my parents would wait (even until the 20th of December) for me to get home and decorate the tree, listening to Christmas music and drinking spiced eggnog.

This year will be our first away from family, trees and traditions. We considered just not going through the hassle and money that having a tree would have. We're not Christian, so why go through traditions that make no sense for us?

Except... Christmas trees are not in any way Christian... they are in fact very pagan. From ancient Egypt, Greece and Germany pagans have been decorating trees during the winter solstice season to celebrate and worship respective gods and goddesses (see Mrs. B's post for more details). So we are taking back the pagan holiday tree-WOOT!

First off though is the choice in tree. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there has been some debate over what is better for the environment- chopping down a tree or buying plastic.

Let's take a quick look:
Fake tree:
Made from plastic (aka petroleum), requires toxic chemicals and more petroleum for energy to create, shipping involves loads of carbon via trucks and ships and the tree *might* last 20 years (while the plastic lasts forever). These trees may be convenient in the short term, unless you consider the nice plastic off-gas that will increase your home's dirty air level and the trees ultimate end in our beautiful green world.

Real tree:
1. Locally grown organic trees: yep they exist! As opposed to the scary cutting down of trees like clear cutting, these farmed trees can be sustainably grown to increase habitat for wildlife, richness in soil from the roots and the filtering of our air. Organically grown trees won't involve toxic pesticides. Best choice of the best!

2. Locally farmed tree, non-organic. This option is still a better choice in my opinion than a fake plastic toxic monstrosity (ok, I like real trees- is it obvious?). Although the farmer probably used pesticides to grow your tree, it still provides habitat, soil protection and carbon filtering. Buying a locally grown tree is key here as it decreases the shipping footprint.

3. The third extra option is to either get a potted tree to plant outside after the holiday season or decorate an outside tree (with sustainable materials! don't want the squirrels eating that plastic tinsel!). Just make sure that the potted tree you buy will actually grow in your climate. Sobey's here in Atlantic Canada sells these terrible little potted trees that are sprayed with glitter (ick) and not even indigenous to this growing region. Awesome.
Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market- check out the pretty pretty windmills!!

Andrew and I chose option numéro un: Locally grown organic tree! YAY!

Where to find one in Halifax? The Ecology Action Centre is selling Lunenburg grown organic trees- and it was UBER easy to purchase one. Tree's typically sell for about 20$, certified organic trees are 30-35 (depending on size) which really isn't that big of a deal, two yoga classes for a planet friendly tree! You can easily order a tree online at the EAC's site- but we had a few questions for them so we ran down to the new Halifax Farmer's Market.

 The very nice man who posed for a blog photo! Thanks Ecology Action Centre dude! :)

The nice girl at the booth assured us that although on their site it says 'regular tree' and 'large organic tree' that all trees are certified organic. They also informed us that they were grown at a Lunenburg farm and not shipped from some far off place. Perfect! Our tree will be ready for pick next Saturday between 9-1pm... hopefully we can strap it to my tiny hatchback or find a really small apartment sized tree.... :)
I am so happy to be at the market on a Sunday! Not busy and still able to buy locally- YES!

If you live in HRM hurry hurry to order your tree though! Ordering closes December 6th (tomorrow) at noon!! Of course, if you're reading this too late, you can always bookmark the site and order one next year!

Now... sustainable Yulemas tree decoration action plan-GO!

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Love the post! We've definitely adopted the real tree option as well, while I could really go for your option right now, we opted for #3 specifically! Problem is we bought a baby potted pine (of the pine family that was actually probably originally used as Yules trees given the climate, etc.) and while it's awfully pretty, trees only grow so fast so after 4 years it's only about 2 feet tall... haha, that we have to find these mini super light ornaments so it doesn't totally droop... one day, it'll be brilliantly full-sized, I swear!

  2. I completely love this post - we're taking back the tree tradition! Wahoo!

    I have been really on the fence about trees this year. I was very disappointed by our last experience with a living tree - I felt that we didn't know enough about it to keep it alive (I hear you have to plant outdoors them within 2 weeks of buying them which I didn't know at the time), plus all that glitter that you mentioned probably didn't help it stay alive, either!

    So...I resigned myself to not having a tree at all this year. But after reading this post, I'm inspired to try to find another option within our price gave me lots to think about!

    Thank you!

  3. Christmas trees are TOTALLY pagan!!

    One of the traditions I've studied in addition to yoga is Norwegian - including runes, a weapons form, a kind of tai chi (based on the runes), mythology, herbology and more.

    And of course, the Yule tree is very much a big part of that tradition.

    Just for myself, I don't really see the point in a tree, but absolutely love real Christmas trees! The Yule tree represents the promise of the coming Spring and then there's the recycling of the tree eventually. But not before the Yule log is left out and used to carve runes for the coming year into.

    Lots of rich pagan history there. Enjoy your tree!

  4. We love real trees rather than fake. Many of my family has had fake for years (evergreens set off my mom's asthma), but being this far away we love a real tree. I hate paying for it though. Last year we got one for free and I'd love to just chop one down, but that doesn't seem to be an option around here. Believe the hub will pick one up in the next few days but we'll see! At least it's one of the few items that actually gets "recycled" around here, being put to use for creek restoration projects hosted by kids for the environment.

  5. This is such a great idea! My parents went out and bought our tree without me already so I read this too late but it is definitely something to keep in mind for next year!! Thanks for sharing the information :) Happy decorating!!

  6. i agree for those of us (including oregonians like me) who are lucky to live in areas where these organically grown trees are grown. my caution would be to those where they aren't, that organic or not, if your tree is getting shipped in from out of state, you're no longer being eco friendly...consider another type of plant or potted tree to decorate that fits in with your climate and celebrates your area ;) lovely post!

  7. Sadly, both the husband and I have crazy bad allergies, so a real tree isn't an option.

    However, we're lucky enough to have the family fake Christmas tree (passed down from his mom - she no longer hosts Christmas), which is still going strong... after 35 years. :) Soon it will be retro!

  8. Organic or not, I still dislike tree farming and the cut-Christmas tree tradition. But I think it's great that you have found something local, organic and of course, 100% biodegradable!!

    My partner and I for the past few years have decorated our bamboo potted tree for Christmas! It looks super pretty with the little shiny balls on it. Last year it loved being inside so much that we took the decorations down but left the tree in the corner!

  9. Great post! We have 2 trees, our Yule tree and a christmas tree decorated with the ornaments the children made when they were growning up.

  10. The Christmas trees I remember most are the ones that were at my grandmother's apartment in New York when I was very young. They reached the ceiling of a grandly proportioned pre-war brownstone and wore a generous coat of silver tinsel. The ornaments ranged from simple shiny baubles to hollowed out eggshells with festive little dioramas inside. My grandmothers’ trees were quite a sensory experience.

    This was long before it occurred to me that trees have their own senses, that they are sentient beings. However covered over their consciousness might be due to the type of body they have, inside every tree’s body there's a spiritual spark of life that's no different from you or me; the body is the only difference.

    It's great for people to live in the most sustainable and natural way that we can. I think that better still, in the case of holiday trees, is to celebrate the season of giving and gratitude by acknowledging that all living beings are conscious spiritual entities and to wish all the trees everywhere a long and happy life.

  11. Doh! We bought our first family tree as a couple this year and went with a fake one. It seemed like the most economical and long-lasting option. I should have done my research.

  12. Lisa, can you do an updated post on how to care for a real tree as a follow up to your Eco friendly holiday ideas?


I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.