During a visit to Sparkling Sherwood on the weekend (10/12), I saw a ‘dressed’ tree. A small board underneath explained that Tree Dressing Day was initiated by Common Ground in 1990. According to Charter for Trees, Woods and People it takes place the first week in December and has its origins in many different customs from all over the world.
In Scotland, for example, they are known as ‘clootie’ trees as they are dressed with rags and are a symbol of long life. In West Africa, silk cotton trees are dressed with a ring of palm leaves and are protected at all costs as they are highly respected. In the Buddist faith, the Bodhi tree is believed to be Buddha’s place of enlightenment and to honour this, after dark lights are placed around the tree.
These varied customs most likely influenced our modern day tradition of a Christmas Tree. In the UK, it is commonly accepted that Prince Albert brought one of the first Christmas Trees to Windsor Castle in 1841. In the years afterwards, the popularity of the indoor tree grew in the UK and USA.
Now it seems, the tradition has gone full circle and the trees have returned to their natural environment. Regardless of the tradition, the idea is the same; an event which respects nature and brings people together. I am definitely looking forward to taking part in Tree Dressing Day next year!
(Sources: https://treecharter.uk/2015/11/06/tree-dressing-day/ www.whychristmas.com/customs/trees.shml Photos: my own from Sparkling Sherwood event 10/12/16)
By Siân Fox, Resilience Syndicate Intern at Kettering Museum