Everything you can do with your tree — after the holidays

How long do you keep your Christmas tree?

Some traditions have them standing until January 6 ("Epiphany"). Although some people take all the ornaments and lights off, dispose of the tree, and sweep up the last needles from the living room floor the moment all the presents have been opened. 

But to throw the tree away, it turns out, is to squander some great opportunities for "upcycling." Check these out:

1. Aromatic tea


Gather 1 tbsp of needles, chop them up, and then crush them (gently!) with a mortar and pestle. Now, in a strainer, put them in a mug and pour very hot water over them. Let the infusion brew for no more than two minutes. (If you leave it longer it will release too many tannins and the tea will be bitter.)

2. Home-made evergreen liqueur


You can drink a shot of Christmas tree as a digestif or simply as a warming winter cocktail to sip in front of the fire. You can find a range of versions to make at home here. Just be sure to read the warnings all the way to the bottom!

3. Therapeutic cough-syrup


Collect a small pot full of spruce needles, plus a few young twigs, and wash them well. Now fill the pot with water, cover it, and bring it to a low boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes and then cool off, leaving it covered. Then strain out the needles and any other solid parts, keeping the liquid to drink with honey as a cough syrup.

The spruce's essential oils can help prevent lung infections, being especially good at disinfecting and cleansing the lungs. The needles also have components that can help improve circulation Drink a cup of the syrup when you have a cough, two to three times per day. 

4. Make your own buttons


These will be one-of-a-kind buttons, perfect for a sweater you knit yourself. They'd also look great on children's clothes! Here's a video explaining how.

5. Rustic kitchen implements


This whisk looks like something from a frontier kitchen 150 years ago. It's not only useful, it's really fun to make. For the more modern kind, this guy will show you how (and while you're at it, check out his other great whittling tips too).

Hm, this could be a good gift for mom or dad next year!

6. An original wooden coat hook


This is the perfect coat (or towel) hook for a nature lover. Here are a few great ways to do it: here with help from a good saw, here (but the video's in German so just watch carefully), or scroll down here to No. 4 (though her other tips are great too).

7. Rid your yard of snails


Snails dislike the essential oils in many pine and spruce trees and will make a swift departure when they pick up that scent. So it can be useful if you have a snail problem (especially in a vegetable garden), to leave several small piles of needles around. 

8. Covering beds in your garden


This is a classic for experienced gardeners, but not everyone knows that fir branches can help perennials to survive the frost unharmed. If you live in a place where the temperature drops below freezing in the winter, you can take some boughs from your Christmas tree and gently place them over your perennials.

You'll see the effect in the spring!

9. For a healthy bath


For a pine-infused bath, you'll need 3 to 4 ounces of needles. Boil them in water for at least 10 minutes. Then pour the brew directly into your bath water! (Make sure the bath isn't already too hot, since it'll warm up quite a bit with the infusion.)

All of these tricks have the advantage of killing two birds with one stone: you get the results of the trick AND you get to "upcycle" your Christmas tree instead of just tossing it.

For all of these DIY hacks, be sure though that your tree wasn't sprayed with pesticides. If you find out that it was, it could be an incentive to find a tree without them for next year. Then you get to spare the environment twice — fewer chemicals before and less trash later!


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