Which winter custom is practiced in both Celtic and Japanese traditions?

And the answer: Tree dressing.    
Photo credit: CommonGround.

Tree dressing is a multicultural practice that honors trees and forests. In Celtic tradition, a rag is tied around a "clootie tree" to mark the sacred well surrounding it as a place of healing. For the summer Tanabata festival in Japan, tree dressing is done by writing wishes and poetry on colorful paper and hanging it on bamboo.

Since the beginning of mankind, humans have depended upon trees and forests. Whether it be for habitat, resources, tools, food, or any other possible contribution from these tall plants with woody tissue, they’ve been crucial to life on Earth since long before humans were around. Over the thousands of years we’ve coexisted with trees, humans have interacted with, cultivated, cleared, and maintained the forests on planet Earth. Moreover, though, trees have often made their way into spiritual practices and cultural significance in a variety of ways, and across many different cultures. For example, in Celtic mythology, hazel trees symbolize wisdom and inspiration that are bestowed upon mankind through dropping hazelnuts. In Native American mythology, trees are considered sacred, and many Native Americans believe in the concept of the world tree around which our world is oriented. For the Ojibwa, this tree is a cedar.

Did you know?

Yesterday was Tree Dressing Day! Each year on December 1st, communities across the UK gather to give thanks to trees in their neighborhoods by tying strips of cloth or yarn on their trunks. But Tree Dressing Day isn’t just an opportunity to get outside and smell the rose trees—it’s also a chance to reflect on the ways that trees have helped make our habitats possible, and to give back to the organizations that protect forests across the world. Learn more about forest protection here,

Tree Dressing Day began back in 1990, when a group called Common Ground decorated London Plane trees on the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and High Holborn in Covent Garden with 150 large numbers—in the hopes that it would show just how much every tree counts. Since then, organizations and communities across the UK have embraced the practice.

Learn more about Tree Dressing Day here.

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