Tree dressing, in the first week of December, is based on many old customs from all over the world and at different times of the year.
Tree Dressing Day falls on the first weekend of December. It was initiated by Common Ground in 1990 and has grown to become much more than an expression of a love for trees. It is a chance for the whole community to gather and celebrate the leafy friends we all have in common. It’s also a chance for communities to reflect on the social and cultural history of their local area, and the role trees have played in shaping this story.
Trees have long been celebrated for their spiritual significance. The simplicity of tying strips of cloth or yarn to a tree is universal and timeless. The old Celtic custom of tying cloth dipped in water from a holy well to a ‘clootie tree’ echoes the practice in Japan of decorating trees with strips of white paper, or tanzaku, bearing wishes and poems. The twenty-first century trend of ‘yarn bombing’ in Europe and North America transforms the local landscape with bright fabrics and yarns, like the Buddhist tradition of tying ribbons around the trunk of the Bodhi tree in homage to Buddha, or the annual Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan when coloured strings are tied onto trees and plants to call upon the power of nature to protect loved ones.
These deep and diverse cultural associations provide a rich basis for tree festivities across the world. The act of dressing a tree binds us to it and celebrates the unique role that trees have in our local neighbourhoods.
Tree dressing is a powerful way of expressing our relationship with trees. Organising a Tree Dressing Day in your community is a wonderful way of saying ‘thank you’ to the trees where you live. It is also the ideal moment to share tree stories with friends, neighbours and colleagues. This year – and every year – join the many thousands of people across the UK who celebrate Tree Dressing Day and make sure your community’s voice is heard by saying thank you to the trees in your neighbourhood.
Images from Community Trees & Woods
Visual Diaries & Photographs
Drawings of Trees
An essay by Sue Clifford
The global importance of trees
People, woods & trees
An exhibition at Hooke Park, Dorset
Artist residencies, woodland festival