“It started off as basically looking for an easier way to get rid of the trees than having to haul them off somewhere,” Blane Sherron said as we stood in the warm glow of the giant bonfire of Christmas trees Saturday night, “and I said why don’t we just burn them. I think it was Kathy [McCulley] who came up with it being an event. It’s an old tradition. This is the second year we’ve done it.”
Several dozen residents showed up to enjoy the chilly evening around the bonfire, including Mayors Daniel Sims (West Blocton) and Jeff Dodson (Woodstock), and County Commissioner Keefe Burt.
Known as the “Burning of the Greens,” the bonfire of Christmas greenery is actually a tradition of the Christian church that goes back possibly as far as 567 A.D. when it’s believed the tradition of Twelfth Night began. Interestingly, while most people seem to think that December 25th is the “Twelfth Day of Christmas” and ends the buildup of the holiday season, Christmas Day actually starts off the twelve days of “Christmastide” that end on January 5th…or possibly the 6th, also known as Epiphany.
From a Methodist Minister and contributor to Wikipedia, Bruce Ford:
In 567 the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide. On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself.
It may be noted by some that West Blocton’s Burning of the Greens gathering at Coke Ovens Park happened on the night of Janurary 4th, not the 5th or 6th. So is it actually a Twelfth Night celebration? Considering that this particular event was neither affiliated with any church nor held as a religious ceremony, it doesn’t really matter.
West Blocton paid homage to an old tradition while gathering families in the community together for a night of fun with hot chocolate and a bonfire. The Tinsel Trail got cleaned up, and no one had to try to find twenty ponds that needed new crappie beds – another old southern tradition of Christmas tree disposal.
Considering the way West Blocton and Woodstock have been upping the ante on community events lately, I wonder what next year’s Burning of the Greens will look like? I look forward to finding out January, 2021.