I would like to share one of my family's favourite new Christmas traditions. If, like me, you are one of those people who loves the naturalness of a real tree, but dislikes the idea of killing a tree every year for Christmas, this idea may appeal to you also. It is environmentally friendly, cost effective and a fun and creative tradition that the whole family can get involved in. The answer is... build your own tree! This is how we did it.

First you go on a hunt for a good sized branch. It should be wider than an average Christmas tree trunk and as long as you would like to make it. You can use any kind of wood, provided it is hard enough and will last once it is dry. The wood my husband found for us was Yew, which has proved to be strong, elegant and long-lasting. It is important that this branch be something which is found, rather than taken from a living tree. Once my husband had the Yew branch, he brought it home and trimmed it so that one end was flat and could be attached to a square base (a flat and sturdy piece of wood wide enough to support the height of the branch). All around the the length and at the top end of the branch he drilled small holes of slightly varying sizes at random interesting points. This becomes the base for the Christmas tree, which can be saved and brought out again next year.

In the run-up to Christmas we take a journey out into the countryside and gather fallen greenery, mostly with needles, but we also gather some holly and other plants. It is best to find branches that have come down in the wind rather than to trim them off of living trees, unless the tree needs to be trimmed for some other reason and you can gather surplus branches from that. We find this is like a kind of treasure hunt out in nature, where you get to find things which would suit this year's creation.

Christmas Tree (34598)When we have gathered enough greenery, we bring it home and with some trimming and whittling, choose different branches to insert into the holes which have been drilled into the Christmas tree base. This part of the process is fun and creative, and is something that the whole family can join in with. The end result is something we are always very pleased with. And while it is not the usual uniform looking Christmas tree, to us it is something even more beautiful. It is a work of art, a unique creation, it smells like a tree, has the feel and look of a living tree and you can know that no living thing was harmed in the process. After you have completed the assembly of your tree, decorate as you like! Use any remaining bits of greenery to decorate the rooms of your home. When Christmas is over you can have a nice crackling fire with the green branches of the tree and pack the base away for use again next year.