A Green Home: Naked Christmas Tree

Reader Contribution by Jaci Kennison
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Jaclyn Kennison is a freelance writer living and playing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She owns and manages an art gallery and event venue between fits of shopping and redecorating.

I am definitely the green sheep in my family. I wash my re-sealable plastic baggies, I buy everything second hand, and I decorate mostly with things I find in the forests of South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills.

Every year about this time I haul out boxes of hand-me-down holiday décor and the excitement that bubbled up in me at the prospect of decorating quickly fizzles out as I stand staring into a tote full of bargain bin Christmas ornaments and plastic greenery. I just can’t quite embrace the idea of assembling an artificial tree in my living room and covering it with colored bulbs and twinkling lights.

Two years ago I convinced myself that a second-hand plastic tree was eco-friendly. And it is… but it’s not me-friendly.

Last year I bought a live tree to plant in the woods once the holidays were over. After I wrote the check for nearly $200 I was informed the tree wouldn’t survive long in my downtown apartment, and I would have to slowly acclimate it to the indoor temperature before bringing it in the house. I’d have to do the same in reverse two weeks later.

I learned a lot that year.

1. Live trees are really heavy–even the small ones.
2. There isn’t enough room in the un-heated laundry room in my building for a tree.
3. A live tree needs a decidedly un-eco-friendly amount of water to stay alive.
And 4. Apparently, people will steal a tree sitting outside a building on Main Street waiting for a warm enough weekend to be planted (which, granted, could have taken months).

Lesson learned. No live trees.

This year I had nearly exhausted my creative juices when I finally came up with an idea. Wintertime trees are so beautiful with their naked branches standing stark against the cold, clear skies. Why not bring that part of the season inside? I did, and you can too.

Adorn your naked Christmas tree with homemade ornaments, ribbon, strings of beads and whatever else you may have at home. Photo By Jaci Kennison.

A quick trip to your nearest wooded area will offer plenty of fallen twigs. Choose a few with a significant girth–maybe an inch or so in diameter–and a spread of branches that your decorating space will easily accommodate. Strip them of any loose bark or leaves and collect them at the base like you would a bouquet of flowers.

At home, select a decorative pot in an appropriate size. Hold your “tree” in the center of the pot and fill with rocks. Cover the rocks with pinecones, dried berries or leave them bare, if you find them beautiful.

I have a collection of crystals and beads, but you could use just about anything you find attractive from ribbons to dried orange slices (as suggested in the article Natural Home Goes to Washington) as ornaments. Consider twisting elegant ribbon, raffia or strings of beads around the “trunk” of your tree.

Wrap your crystals, beads or stones with a lightweight craft wire. Cut ribbon into various lengths and voila! When suspended from the branches of your tree you will have a stunning–and green–holiday centerpiece.