Each year after the holidays, citizens of coastal Nome, Alaska cart out their Christmas trees and set them up on ice amidst a field of other custom figures, creating a temporary winter wonderland that lasts as long as the ice holds (before the trees are carried out to sea). Like other informal guerrilla forests, it is a small, local and cozy affair.
The Nome Nugget, “Alaska’s Oldest Newspaper,” has reported on the “Nome National Forest” from time to time over the past 25-plus years of the tradition’s existence. “The story begins at Fat Freddies, an iconic restaurant that closed and was replaced by Bering Sea Restaurant,” they explain. The owners decided to play a kind of practical joke on tourists — something light and fun to confound visitors.
Among other things, they created a Nome National Forest sign, which according to reports drew the ire of an actual National Forest worker when its image was published in the local paper — it is, of course, not really a forest, let alone a federally official one.
Over the years, other cutouts have been created by locals, including school children, to augment the experience. Then, as the ice begins to melt, these are recovered. The trees are left to drift out into the water.
Some places use old Christmas trees to bolster dunes or put them toward other environmental or landscaping purposes. In other cities, old trees are unfortunately tossed into landfills or otherwise simply disposed of. But in Nome, Christmas trees get to serve a more lasting and visible purpose, leading second lives on the ice before returning to nature in the Norton Sound, carried out by waves of the Bering Sea.