The holidays are over, and so are the short, happy lives of Christmas trees across the country.
Every year, approximately 25 millilon to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, a lobbyist group that advocates for the purchasing of real trees (as opposed to artificial trees, which are, in turn, advocated by its sworn enemy, the American Christmas Tree Association).
And every year, Americans, usually after the New Years Day holiday, are left with questions of what to do with the seemingly purposeless, dry, needle-shedding tree.
In recent years, communities across the country have gotten creative on what to do with trees after Christmas.
In New Jersey, several towns along the coast have used the discarded trees to stabilize sand dunes that were destroyed in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, according to a NJ.com report.
Trees are forced into the sand to create a fence, effectively becoming a block against the wind and reducing the amount of sand carried away from the dunes, which protect coastal towns from the ocean encroaching onto properties.
Since 1989, the state of Louisiana, which suffers from some of the most severe wetland loss in the country, has used old Christmas trees to keep salt water from entering coastal marshes.
According to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the barricade “provides an effective wave-break that can reduce marsh-edge erosion; enhance water clarity, thus allowing more aquatic vegetation to become established; and provide important reef areas for many fish and crustacean species.”
In Durango, residents can discard natural trees, free of any decorations, at Santa Rita Park, 149 South Camino del Rio, until Jan. 31. Trees will then be taken to chippers and turned into mulch.
At the recycle location on Sunday, the mound of pine trees was already starting to pile up.
Mark Rosenberg, a 16-year resident of Durango, said this year’s holiday season had an added bonus: He celebrated the 25th anniversary of his marriage to his wife, LeeAnn Vallejos.
“It was great,” Rosenberg said. “We just spent time together, which was really fun.”
However, the holidays almost ended on a sour note for Rosenberg and Vallejos. On New Year’s Eve night, the couple’s dog, Max, ran away from their home near 21st Street and Alamo Drive, scared of the fireworks. However, he was found Sunday.
Matt Garland, a 2005 Fort Lewis College graduate who moved back to Durango this July, said his holidays have been filled with ski trips to Purgatory Resort, which has received 30 inches of snow since Dec. 22, according to OpenSnow.com.
“Fantastic,” Garland said of the ski conditions. “Every single day has been great.”
And now, with the Christmas trees gone, the festive lights coming down, and the overall absence of holiday cheer, many people might be entering what’s known as a post-holiday depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
The APA calls the sad, empty feeling after Christmas-New Year’s perfect storm a “mild mental distress phenomenon occurring after seasonal holidays due to stress and disruption of daily activities.” Or in other words: back to reality.
Luckily, for Durangoans, another chance to escape reality is only another few weeks away. And this time, into an intergalactic parallel universe.
“It is a time of cold and boredom in Durango …” reads the Snowdown website in the style of the classic Star Wars opening crawl. “It is a time for FUN. Snowdown is here … The original Cabin Fever Reliever!”
“I haven’t participated in 11 years,” Garland said of this year’s Snowdown, which runs from Feb. 1-5 and is “intergalactic” themed. “I’m ready.”