“Is that cedar tree on 620 draped in a glittery metallic substance, or is my gluten-free eggnog too strong?”
If you’re new to the Lake Travis area, you may be puzzled by the magical appearance of roadside Christmas trees. Relax, you’re not hallucinating. It’s an Austin tradition.
Every year after Thanksgiving, trees along the busiest highways in the Lake Travis area start to get more festive as Christmas approaches. By the time December 25th arrives there are literally hundreds of brightly colored, cheery trees lining roadways in and around Austin. It’s a rather spectacular sight to see.
If you’re feeling inspired to decorate a tree yourself, you might have a few questions swirling around in that jolly head of yours.
Is this an organized thing? I bet there’s a virtual sign-up sheet on Shutterfly somewhere.
Is it legal? Getting arrested could be a major buzz kill.
Are there rules? Because there are always rules.
Can I advertise my company? Why spend marketing dollars when you have trees.
If you’d like to add this tree-tastic tradition to your holiday To-Do list, we’ve got the answers you seek.
A quirky tree thing
Nobody is exactly sure how this holiday tradition began, but it’s solidified and accepted as an “Austin thing.”
Many claim that it started years ago when a local family decorated a single tree during the dark of night in memory of a loved one. The concept evolved and grew into what it has become today.
Festive family tradition
For many families and organizations, “adopting” and decorating a tree together is an annual tradition.
Folks spend time picking out the right tree, the right decorations, the right coordinating sweaters. It’s just like any other holiday gathering except you’re standing on the side of the road with vehicles zooming by you at 60mph.
Tips for decorating a tree
Since decorating a roadside tree during the holidays isn’t an organized event, it’s hard to figure out what you can and can’t do.
We’ve put together a list of tips and unspoken rules to make sure you stay off the naughty list.
- Don’t get distracted by your shiny tinsel. Safety matters when you’re decorating a tree on a busy street, so you must be vigilant at all times.
- Give yourself as much room as possible. Choosing a flat stretch of road with a tree that’s 30-40 feet off the road is optimal.
- Think Las Vegas! Decorating your tree with big, bright, shiny objects work the best — anything that sparkles during the daylight hours.
- Themed roadside trees are perf. If you’re a matchy-matchy kinda gal who happens to love all-things dolphins, this is your time to shine.
- Consider the elements when you’re shopping for your decorations, because things like wind and rain can be problematic. Which leads us to #6 …
- Take plenty of string to fasten decorations in place. You don’t want a few gusts of wind to immediately turn your pretty decorations into fancy trash.
- Please don’t spam us with your tree. There’s a difference between showing support for your organization in a festive creative way and using your tree like it’s an annoying pop-up ad.
- Mind your perennial plant manners. Decorations left up after January 1st become litter, so clean up your tree as soon as the holiday season ends.
- No, we’re really serious about #8! Driving by sad, forgotten decorations in February puts nobody in a festive mood. Keep it classy, LT.
- We were just kidding about the Shutterfly sign-up sheet.
Speaking of live trees
If you have real Christmas trees at your home that you need to dispose of after the holidays, here are recycling options in the Lake Travis area:
Christmas trees that will be recycled can be taken to the Lakeway Public Works facility, 3303 Serene Hills Drive, through January 8, 2018. Public Works is next to the Serene Hills Elementary School.
Waste Connections (formerly Progressive Waste Solutions) will take Christmas trees that are placed at the curb. They must be free of decorations and be cut into 3-foot sections.
Did you adopt a roadside Christmas tree this year? Share your tree’s story and a pic in the comments section on our Facebook page.