Kelowna Greenway’s Celebration Tree

I’m trying desperately to stop thinking about the flow of posts here, and just to get some up.
So if you find a lack of sequence, bear with me; that’s sort of the idea of this blog….

A shot of the neighbourhood:

Our neighbourhood 2
Thanks to David Kirk, whom I met last summer on the Thomson Marsh train, for inspiring to go ahead with this story. It developed a little differently from our original notion, but without his encouragement, this account might never have been written….

The Celebration Tree
It’s a skinny little fir just off the south side of Mission Creek Greenway, not far from the Casorso Bridge. Most days we walk it by without a glance.

Celebration Tree unadorned
The Little Fir Tree

But come Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s or Father’s Day, Canada Day, Back to School Day, Thanksgiving, or Remembrance Day, the spindly shrub is transformed into what I’ve come to call The Celebration Tree.

Celebration Tree BtSchool - 06a
Back to School Celebration

It’s certainly not a secret. Dozens of walkers (with or without dogs), horses and riders, cyclists, joggers, and local photographers pass by it every week. The first time we encounter it, all dressed up in colours and symbols appropriate to the occasion, I think it’s safe to say we feel a glow of gratitude that some thoughtful person or group has undertaken to brighten the day.


The second time, and thereafter, I believe, our appreciation deepens.
When we find someone examining the tree and its icons, we stop to chat.

“Isn’t this great?”

“I wonder who does this—is it a group, school children, some eccentric ‘do-gooder’?”

“Who knows? But it’s something special, isn’t it?”

“Somebody should do a story on it, on the mystery.”

“Find out who’s behind it? I’m not sure we need to know, but it would be nice to thank her/him/them, wouldn’t it?”

Celebration Tree Halloween - 3

The day after the holiday, the decorations are gone; the scrawny bush resumes it’s undecorated Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree persona again.

Not long ago, I encountered a fellow photographer looking for hawks along the perimeter path in Mission Recreation Park. We spoke of how much we love the photo ops in Lower Mission, especially around Thomson and Michaelbrook Marshes and the Greenway. We touched on the friendliness of the other folks who also use the trails here. Eventually, The Celebration tree found a place in the conversation. “I know the people who do it,” my colleague told me, “but my lips are sealed—because that’s the way they want it.”

I realize, too, that The Mystique of the Celebration Tree is a precious part of the Tree’s purpose. We don’t need to know who prepares and nurtures it; we require only a moment to reflect, meditate, and give thanks that we live in a community where such thoughtfulness exists and is so much appreciated.

I look forward to each special day, now, and make a point to visit this extraordinary spot. It never fails to inspire and to remind me that I have landed in a very good place!

Late note: Because of winter construction on the south Greenway, 2015-16, by which the creek’s channel is being redesigned to make it more natural, the dike is closed until Spring 2016.
Will The Little Fir Tree survive? I don’t know.

Celebration Tree uncelebrated - 2a
Here we can see that the Greenway has been lowered by over four feet (compare with the image of the unadorned tree at the top of this post). The tree, adorned with a single Remembrance Day poppy, and its tiny sapling to the right, are still intact….

If it does not survive the creek’s redesign, I don’t think the tradition will die, but it won’t be quite the same either. Already, we’re seeing decorations along the north Greenway Dike in celebration of the 2015 Holiday Season.
Greenway decorations - 1

Good Health, Happy Days, and All the Adventure You Can Handle!


Stories about the tree have appeared in the local press, as recently as November 2015 (—Winter-Newsletter.html?soid=1103726288256&aid=LRuIRUo_lVU#grant) The article (much of it from a Capital News article in 2002) covers the origin of this custom from 2000 to 2002 and credits Kelowna’s Pearl Jakins (shown below) with founding the tradition.

Pearl Jakins 2001 with Celebration Tree
Pearl Jakins, 2001

It concludes: “These days Pearl isn’t able to get around like she used to, but she still tries to get out to her tree once a week, though she has to drive there now instead of walk. The past couple of years she hasn’t been able to decorate the tree, yet the tree continues to bear decorations thanks to the goodwill of anonymous Greenway users who have grown to cherish the tradition. Pearl would like to meet some of the people who have taken up the torch and express her gratitude that the spirit of the Greenway tree lives on.”



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