The presents have been unwrapped. The eggnog has been drunk (or not). The family arguments have all been had. Christmas is officially over and that means you have to do something about that conical cutting of dried branches and needles known as your Christmas tree.
You could toss it on the sidewalk and wait for the Christmas Tree Fairy to pick it up, but since that isn't an official job title in any municipality that we know of, you might want to consider other options.
1. Compost it
Christmas tree needles are "quite resilient to the usual composting bacteria so take ages to breakdown," according to some British people who know about these things. The trunk can take even longer. Your best bet is to shred the tree or at least cut it up: "Otherwise, it could easily be next Christmas or the one after that before you start seeing any progress."
2. Make mulch
Similar to composting, you'll need to remove the branches from the tree. Then you layer the boughs over bulbs and perennials to keep the soil temperature consistent. You can also cut the branches into smaller pieces using clippers or scissors before laying them on top of your garden.
3. Make wood chips
You'll need a wood chipper for this one, so maybe you and a bunch of neighbors want to chip in (see what we did there?) to rent the machine together. Hours of dangerous fun! But don't go all Gaear-Grimsrud-in-Fargo on anyone else. This Old House says: "Next spring, spread the wood chips under shrubs; they'll suppress weeds and, as they decompose, add nutrients to the soil."
4. Build a bonfire
This is more our speed, mainly because it involves less effort. You chop up the trunk and branches, then toss them into a fire pit. Don't have a fire pit or a working fireplace? Head to Dockweiler Beach in Playa Del Rey, one of the few Southern California beaches where you can still light up a bonfire.
5. Make coasters from the trunk
Being crafty helps if you plan to repurpose your Christmas tree into decor, but anyone can do it, right? All you have to do is use a chop or miter saw to slice the trunk in 1/2-inch thick slabs, sand the slabs either by hand or with an electric sander, stain the sanded slabs (we recommend a light golden brown), let the stain dry, coat the coasters with a polyurethane sealer, let that layer dry, cut out felt circles to fit the bottom of each coaster and glue the felt circles onto each coaster. See? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Or buy some tree trunk coasters on Etsy and pretend you made them.
6. Have the city pick it up
Most areas in L.A. County offer curbside recycling services and/or drop-off sites. To take advantage of curbside recycling, remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, nails, plastic containers and tree stands. Place your tree on the curb next to your recycling and trash bins on collection day. Most haulers will pick up trees starting the day after Christmas until Jan. 12. In most cases, flocked trees aren't accepted and you'll need to cut down trees that are larger than 6-feet. You can get all the details here for your city.
The county turns the trees into mulch that residents can usually pick up for free. This year, the Lopez Canyon facility in Sylmar won't be able to do that due to damage sustained in the Creek Fire.
7. Turn it into art
If we've learned one thing from attending our art school friends' end-of-year exhibitions, it's that anything can be art. Anything. A pile of pencil shavings? A timeless and timely exploration of how technology both destroys and creates modalities for communication. An empty room with nothing but a window and a fire escape? "It’s like everything and nothing at the same time." (Maybe practice saying that with a straight face.)
How can you apply this to your Christmas tree? Leave your tree standing and don't remove any ornaments. Over the course of several months, let it dry or rot or do whatever it's going to do. When anyone asks, tell them it's a time-based art installation. The desiccated pine needles could be a comment on the domestic drudgery that women are still with in pursuit of domestic bliss. The dusty and broken ornaments still hanging from the branches are a metaphor for the hollowness of consumerism. The sky's the limit. Just make sure to use a lot of big words. And consider applying for an NEA grant before the federal government eliminates them. Good luck!