Thanks for Participating in the 2020 Wishing Tree Project!

Wishing Trees

Trees are a universal symbol of hope, life, and resilience. 

They can establish in mountainside crags with minimal soil or moisture, they can grow to hundreds of feet from humble seeds, and with their crowns in the heavens and roots beneath the earth, they remind us of the balance needed between our spiritual and physical lives.

In ancient times – and in places unconnected by land, language, or culture – the concept of wishing trees emerged. In 17th century Scotland, the practice took the form of hammering coins into the trunks of hawthorn trees after making a wish.

Tanabata Wishing Tree

Colorful wish tags tied to a tree in Japan as part of the Tanabata festival.

In ancient Japan, the ritual was gentler: for the Tanabata festival, people tied colorful papers with written wishes – or tanzaku – to bamboo branches.

A similar tradition can be found in Turkey, while in Hong Kong wishes were tied to oranges that were cast into the canopy of trees. In North America, Native American tribes like the Lakota and Seminole hung colored prayer ties from a tree during the Sun Dance ceremony, with each color representing a different theme. 

The practice of manifesting wishes using trees continues to this day, sometimes in traditional ways, but other times taking new forms.

In 1996, Yoko Ono, experimental artist and wife of the late musician John Lennon, set up a project called the WISH TREE. Her inspiration for the project was the wishing trees she saw at temples in Japan, where she grew up.

For the exhibit, she set up a tree, alongside which she placed pens, tags, and a note inviting visitors to write a wish for peace and tie it to the tree. Since this first exhibition, museums and institutions around the world have exhibited Ono’s WISH TREE project, including Stanford campus in 2008. Visitors have written over half a million wishes, which Ono has collected and placed in the Wishing Well of the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavík, Iceland: a tower that she established in 2007 in honor of her late husband.

Her instructions from a 2014 installation read, “keep wishing until the branches are covered with wishes.” 


Community Wishing Trees

Ono has invited others around the world to join her in sharing their own visions of a better world.

In the uniting spirit of this project, the communities of East Palo Alto and Palo Alto have established wishing trees at several local sites together.

All of the wishes that are contributed during the project will be gathered at the end of October and sent to the Imagine Peace Tower Wishing Well, where they will be added to the collection of wishes from around the world.

A tree full of wishes, from one of Yoko Ono’s WISH TREE exhibits.

Partners from both cities have come together to host the trees and spread the word, including the Cities of East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, Canopy, the Palo Alto Art Center, the Neighborhood Associations of Midtown and Ventura, and the Cubberley Community Center. Like-minded organizations and individuals working towards more just, equitable, and peaceful communities have also provided their support, including the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center (PPJC), Reach and Teach bookstore, Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), and EPA City Councilmember Lisa Gauthier. 

As organizations that cherish community, we believe that there is power in coming together to manifest our shared vision for a better future. 

Your strength and positivity amidst this difficult time have inspired us, and we want you to have a place to express the wishes that you have for your community.

Each of the wishing trees has materials for you to write your wishes on. You can use the map below to find the tree nearest you, or you can choose to visit all of the trees! We are thrilled that you’ve decided to take part in this project.



What is your wish?

Visit a wishing tree near you and share your vision!*

The communities of East Palo Alto and Palo Alto have come together to set up wishing trees in both cities. Tie your wishes to the trees, and watch them fill up with the inspiring wishes and hopes of others.

Map instructions: Click on the orange trees on the map to see details and locations for the wishing trees. To use Google Maps to navigate to a tree, click the red arrow to the right of the site name. To return to the full map view after clicking on a tree, simply click on any other location on the map.

Digital Wishing Tree

If you can’t visit a Wishing Tree in person, we’d still love for you to participate! Share your wishes digitally in the Community Wishing Trees Facebook Group, or with your own post using #CommunityWishingTrees.

Air Quality Advisory: Please check the air quality index (AQI) in your area before you venture to visit a Wishing Tree or spend time outdoors. 

For questions or comments: please contact Vanessa Wyns at [email protected] 

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