Tree Dressing 2

We’ve invited Barry Patterson to run a tree dressing workshop on the afternoon of 5 December. He has many ideas about the kinds of things we can do. Some are listed below. We will provide some simple materials – such as things gathered from the park, decorative papers and string. We would like bits of coloured fabric, and would be pleased to have you bring pieces along from your own collections. You might also consider making decorations at home and bringing them to the park on the day.

Tree Dressing Themes

a. Celebration of trees in general with respect to their practical benefits, place in the ecosystem & their beauty – the way that they make us feel. We are fortunate to have so much woodland and so many types of trees throughout our part of the city. The canopy and proximity of trees means survival and bounty for many creatures whilst contributing to many qualities of place.

b. This Tree! Celebration of a particular tree because of its context or associations. Maybe it is The School Tree, The Class Tree, The Tree on the Corner that Everybody Knows, the Tree in the Grounds of Somewhere Important, or just The Village Tree. Was it planted when the school was opened? Who planted it? Did the mayor open the school? Who was the mayor then? Who is still alive?

Many of the trees which are still dressed in a traditional way are specific trees that have been, at some point in their lives, chosen for this honour. Maybe you will be starting a noble tradition!

d. Messages as decorations, maybe a Wishing Tree. In Japan people write their prayers & wishes on strips of paper or fabric & fold & tie them to the tree. Making "Green Wishes" is a way of promoting environmental awareness. This is not unlike the rags which you see tied to bushes & trees in the UK & Ireland, often near ancient springs & wells. Similarly, it could be a poem tree, & each participant could read their poem before tying it to the tree.

e. Brightening up the Winter Wood. Just as we bring in evergreens like holly & ivy & decorate Christmas trees in our homes as part of a venerable tradition of brightening the mid-winter gloom, so tree dressing can be thought of as doing a similar job a little earlier in the month. A popular way of doing this is for everyone to make leaves & attach them to the branches. Sometimes the leaves have a message of some kind written on them, or the person’s name.

f. A Tree is Someone’s Home. All kinds of animals rely on trees for homes or food. Model or cut out animals could be placed in the tree.

At Kirklees, in 1992, with adult help, some children made large insects which they attached to the trunks of trees as if they were crawling up. They were very effective & got national attention.

g. Traditional & Religious symbols. Symbols from different world traditions & religions can be made and hung in a Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is a recurring theme in a number of cultural, religious, artistic, and mythic traditions.

Further information and ideas are available from Common Ground on all aspects of tree dressing. Dressing of street or park trees must involve the local authority, and any dressing which involves ladders or climbing in large trees must be done by suitably trained people. Insurance must cover the ‘dressers’ and the general public for the duration of the event. Common Ground can advise on the suitability of different materials, safe fixing and other practical aspects of tree dressing, and have many inspiring examples of dressed trees and events. Start planning well in advance, probably in early spring, for a large-scale event the following December. Equally enjoyable events can be run on a smaller scale, perhaps involving a local school or group dressing a privately-owned garden tree.

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