Trashed Tannenbaums

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If Christmas comes too early for some, it stays too long for others. Richard Swerdlow has a post-holiday pine needle to pick.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how past the sell date are thy branches. Not decorated, lit-up Christmas trees. I'm talking discarded Christmas trees, dumped on the sidewalk.

As every San Franciscan knows, once the holidays are over, do you see what I see? Sidewalks piled with old Christmas trees, nakedly stripped of tinsel and lights, thrown away on nearly every block. It's almost a post-holiday tradition; the chilly walk to the corner store, passing heaps of chucked Christmas trees.

These trashed Tannenbaums, having done their holiday duty and been scrapped on the sidewalk, meet various fates. The fire department and garbage collection agencies recycle Christmas trees, making energy from wood chips. One program replants trees on city streets, another re-purposes Christmas trees, feeding them to goats. There's even a Burning Man-style hipster bonfire on Ocean Beach every January made up of collected ditched Christmas trees.

New Year's day is the unofficial deadline for getting rid of your Christmas tree. But dumped trees show up on sidewalks months later: I once saw one in April. That’s putting the "ever" in evergreen. Spotting a cast-off Christmas tree way after the holiday...what is the story behind that overdue post-yule purge? Was it from a household so holly-jolly they couldn't bear to see Christmas end? Do these people, finally tossing Christmas trees by Easter, also have stockings on the fireplace and mistletoe all year long, singing carols in May, chestnuts roasting on an open fire in August, sipping egg nog in July?


Not to mention those random windows with Christmas lights still displayed in February. Late for last Christmas, or early for next...or is it always the most wonderful time of the year at their house?

But maybe these every-day-is-Christmas folks are onto something. If Christmas means tidings of comfort and joy, and peace on earth, there are worse things than keeping the halls decked until March. So, have yourself a merry little Christmas and hang a shining star upon the highest bough.

Even if you don't toss it until St. Patrick's Day.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow works for the San Francisco Unified School District.