Trimming the Yule Tree: Memories and Spells Held in Branches

Trimming the Yule Tree: Memories and Spells Held in Branches December 15, 2018

It usually happens the first week of December — the Yule tree. We clear away all of the altars and dust that accumulates in the North corner of the living room and make room for the tree.

And the magick of Yule.

We pull out an old cast iron tree stand that we found at a thrift store.

We take down the box of decorations from the top shelf of the garage.

And my partner and I steel ourselves for the Christmas-y-ness of the tree lot that we’ve gone to for years.

Grounding cords firmly in place, coffee firmly in hands…

We begin the search.

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Finding the Intention of the Tree

In the past, I’ve focused on finding the best looking tree for the room, but we started out with something different this year.

Intention. What is the intention of this tree? What are we bringing into this season?





With those ideas in mind, we looked for a tree that held those qualities or felt like it could. Something that was greener than earlier years, something that smelled of childhood memories, and a tree that was strong enough to hold our memories.

That one, we said. Or maybe that one.

We circled the lot a few times, the sun of the day already high in the sky. And we returned to the one that stood just a few steps from the entryway.

That one. That one will hold the magick we want to bring in.

Preparing and Decorating the Tree for Healing and Wonder

To be honest, I’ve never been a ‘real’ tree fan. I grew up with artificial trees and they were fine by me. But the longer I’ve been with my partner, the more he’s shown me that the smell of pine is a call to his growing up years. And I understand it and feel it and hear it in his voice each time we make a date to find that year’s tree.

Preparation. We bring the tree into our home and trim away anything that doesn’t need to be there. We hold it up in the corner, in that cast iron stand, and see how it looks. First one of us, then the other. And then one of us holds tightly as the other turns the screws to make sure the tree stays upright.

Then we step back.

I’m a nostalgic person anyway, but seeing a tree can often bring out the weepy memories with each ornament.

(Of course, the lights go on first, draped across all angles and layers. Ready to light up the pieces that have been carefully wrapped away in tissue paper and special boxes for the past year.)

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The Stories of Lives and Living

Decoration. All of our ornaments are relics of my childhood and his, gifts from relatives when we were born or as we grew up. We also have ornaments that my mom used to give us to celebrate our milestones — wedding, XX years together, etc. The ornaments his grandma gave us before she passed away, and the ornament that didn’t make it to her house in time for what would have been her last Christmas.

And there are ornaments of places we’ve traveled — or places others have traveled.

We tell the stories of each ornament, every year.

The stories of the bells in eight languages that were given to my mom by her German grandmother.

The stories of the Norwegian spinning angel candle thing that my partner got from his grandmother.

All of these ornaments are stories of healing and love, of moments of wonder and dreaming.

We place them carefully on the branches.

The Magick of the Season

Magick. We are remember the spell of lives that have been lived and are living.

We call into the branches, into the spaces between sparkle and light, the promise of new stories and new adventures.

And we light up the tree every day, infusing the decorations with new wishes and new hopes.

May you too call into your life what brightens you, may you remember what came before.


At the end of the season, we will take the tree down and burn all of the branches at a fire with beloveds.

And we will keep one piece of the trunk as our Yule log, to be burned the following year.

However you celebrate (or don’t), may your heart have what it needs.

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