ONE of the annual items covered in this column is the gradual disappearance of the holly tree. Driving home over the Conor Pass recently it was encouraging to see the Gardaí stop the drivers of a van full of holly, hacked down from nearby fields. It does not appear to be illegal to cut down the holly tree, but if the suspects are trespassing on land then they may well have a case to answer.
It is interesting to read in the Brehon Laws, the legal system of the 1st millennium AD in Ireland, that damaging a holly tree was an offence, and the fine to be paid was two milk cows to the landowner. Further proof that the modern law is an ass!
Holly is a notoriously slow-growing tree and it is often completely destroyed as a result of the manner in which it is cut.
The only way to stop this destruction of one of the ancient sacred trees of Ireland, is to stop buying holly from the traders in towns coming up to Christmas.
If they can't sell it this year they might realize that it is no longer a profitable activity, and will no longer cut it down.
It comes too late for many areas of the county where it is very difficult to find red-berried holly on any roadside, but there are still pockets of Kerry where the dreaded saw or axe has yet to appear for the holly tree.
The best solution is to grow your own holly, either in the garden or in large patio pots, and ensure that future generations will not have to go to a nature book to see what a holly tree looked like
Another seasonal topic is Christmas waste and again it's an area where our personal actions make the difference between things going all right or all wrong.
Each household in Ireland will generate around 60 kilos of used packaging in total over Christmas.
This will create a waste packaging mountain in the New Year weighing up to 80,000 tonnes.
However, if we recycle 45% of this used packaging then it can result in the reduction of 43,000 tonnes of carbon.
As households get into the festive spirit it is estimated that nationally we will munch our way through 8.5 million mince pies, 1.4 million tins of biscuits, nearly 1 million 'selection boxes' and will pull over 16 million Christmas crackers celebrating the festivities.
Is it Scrooge-like to suggest that Christmas crackers are the greatest waste of money and generator of waste at this time of year?
On a more local scale the figures for Kerry also imply a huge level of waste will be created over the next few weeks - again most of which can be recycled.
How about these figures for packaging in Kerry alone last year.
* 697,986 wine bottles
* 1.6 million aluminium beer cans
* 1.1 million soft drinks cans
* 609,217 beer bottles
* 1.8 million plastic drinks bottles
* 192,675 cardboard sweet boxes
* 190,444 rolls of wrapping paper
Now that is what I call a waste hangover!
Have a happy - and clean - Christmas.