If you deck the halls with sand or antlers, these trees may be for you.
If we’re being honest, the history of the Christmas tree is murky, pre-dating Christianity itself. European pagans worshipped evergreen trees as symbols of eternal life, and in Scandinavia, the tradition survived religious conversion. Many decorated their homes with wreaths and trees for the birds at Christmas time, and to shoo the devil away at the New Year.
The modern Christmas tree is most often traced back to the Renaissance, typically to protestant reformer Martin Luther himself. Standing at the vanguard of arbor décor, he is believed to be the first to bedeck an evergreen tree with lighted candles
Whatever the story, it’s probably fair to say Luther and his forebears didn’t envision a future in which their holy trees weren’t harvested from the forest. They certainly didn’t envision a 600-ton sand sculpture on the beaches of Florida.
Some of the trees on this list are avant-garde. They’re risky. Some are even heretical, like the fire-belching “Traffic Tree” in the Christmas market-filled city of Berlin, or the Jack Daniels’ Barrel Tree in Tennessee.
Others, like the “Poinsettia Tree” at Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens, or the “Tumbleweed Tree” in Chandler, Arizona, may have garnered a more favorable—if still quizzical reaction—from the early Christians. Or maybe not.
Either way, all the attractions on this list stand at the front line of Christmas tree evolution, pushing the age-old tradition well beyond recognition. Perhaps this holiday season, you’ll be inspired to ditch the ornaments and twinkling tree topper.