Beautiful South African Christmas Tree Is Made of Recycled Materials

Every year, the town of Barrydale makes a magnificent tree using upcycled plastic, ribbons, and interactive lighting.

One doesn't usually think of South Africa (or anywhere in the southern hemisphere, for that matter) when dreaming about idyllic Christmas traditions, but here's a fun one that everyone should know about. The small town of Barrydale (pop. 4,156, according to Wikipedia) puts up an annual community Christmas tree -- made of recycled materials.

The 10-year-old tradition is described as an "otherworldly abstraction made from junk." Featuring whimsical flying bird silhouettes made from recycled PET plastic, trailing ribbons, and interactive LED lighting, the tree is no longer confined to a conical shape, but now gives more of a "tree impression" with birds floating in and around it. It looks slightly confusing by daylight but comes alive at night.

The tree's creators are four friends who run the Magpie Collective, an art gallery and store selling lighting-based products in Barrydale, where the Obamas once purchased a chandelier for their daughters' bedroom. The collective's focus is to link art with "meaningful commercial and social entrepreneurism, integrated with environmental concern." As a result, their whimsical creations "often incorporate repurposed, found, memorabilia or recycled elements." (from the website)

Spokesman Shane Petzer told Ozy that the upcycled Christmas tree tradition began unofficially in 2003:

"To celebrate their first Christmas in the tiny farming village, the guys used recycled trash to build a Christmas tree in the garden of the home they share. 'Loads of compliments from the neighbors' led them to create their first public tree a few yules later."

The tradition has only gotten bigger. Now there's a large puppet parade (this year honoring the endangered rhinoceros), an art tour, and a public barbecue, as well as a rubber duck race for charity -- not what most of us North Americans associate with pre-Christmas celebrations, but fitting for a hot climate!

Petzer says the idea was to use "a cultural event like Christmas as a tool to build social and environmental awareness, but [he] never dreamed it would get this big." But he shouldn't be surprised. As the saying goes, "If you build it, they will come." Who doesn't love having a fun, outdoor, holiday-themed event to attend, especially one that's family-friendly? I wish more towns would do something like this.

Time-lapse: Barrydale Christmas Tree 2015 from Matt Hart on Vimeo.