Kuressaare Christmas tree: recycled!

KURESSAARE - The Estonian town of Kuressaare, capital of Saaremaa island, will fully recycle its 55-feet tall Christmas tree this year.

After the spruce tree has served its 2-month duty in the town’s central square, its needles and branches will end up in Lahhentagge tonic water, while the trunk will be the heart of city’s Midsummer fire in June.

The Christmas tree tradition runs deep in Estonia, which was the first place in the world to put up a public Christmas tree back in 1441. Estonia was the last European country to be Christianised in 13th century. The Christmas tree tradition takes its roots from pagan celebrations of light during the darkest days of the winter.

In the 21st century, the tradition still runs deep in the country – thousands of Estonians go into the forests to pick their trees (and pay for it with an app, if they are in state-owned forest) and each city tries to trump the others with their Christmas tree. (The Northen Estonian small town of Rakvere had made headlines around the world with its unusual artificial and mechanical tree alternatives, but has eventually ended up using a real tree again.)

The Saaremaa-based beverages company, Lahhentagge, is one of the few local tonic makers in the Nordic country. Its first tonic, Spruce and Cardamom, was launched in June 2018. “We had been thinking about the dried Christmas trees for quite a while when I had the Eureka moment: the town’s Christmas tree is big enough and stays outside in the cold, so it does not dry. We are lucky to live in a place where the city will leap at ideas that might seem totally crazy at first,” said Lahhentagge founder, Maarit Pöör.

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“Taking into account the minerals and the vitamins that you can find in a spruce tree, and the number of spruce trees that are cut every Christmas, it makes all the sense in the world,” Pöör added.

Mihkel Tamm, the head of the culture and sports department at the local government, shares this thought. "I really welcome such initiatives, where the public and private sector co-operate. Partly, this is about the additional emotional value for the product, but partly it is very practical – the branches which would otherwise just be burnt will have another cycle of life.”

“It’s a clear example of how something which is already being partly used, becomes a valuable beginning for another product. Such recycling will help turn Saaremaa into a green island,” Tamm said.