The Christmas Tree 

Cold, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, freezing cold. So cold your breath froze on your lips. The sun was shining but it was still so very cold. Too cold to go outside, yet, outside we must go. Christmas was coming and we had no tree. We bundled up with coat, hat, mittens and a tummy full of hot chocolate before heading out back for our trek in the woods to find the "perfect" tree. Perfect tree, you say. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I must recite to you NOW, a story told to me many many moons ago about the "perfect tree". 

Long ago, in a time of no hours, just days and nights, and seasons, there lived a stand of green-needled trees called firs. In that very same area there also lived green-needled trees called pines. The fir trees were a proud bunch. They stood straight and full. The green of their broad needles shone brightly under the glow of the sun and some even had a touch of blue. They prided themselves on how lovely they all looked and everyone who passed through their land spoke highly of their beauty. They whispered among themselves at how exquisite they all felt and how jealous the pines must be of their beauty. They swayed gracefully when the wind blew through them and glistened when the raindrops fell to their perfectly shaped limbs. Each raindrop came to rest on a needle adorning it like a jewel. They ohhhed and ahhhhed at each other in pride as the drops of rain adorned their bodies, while secretly thinking about themselves that they were the MOST wondrous of the forest. 

The pines, on the other hand, were a sad-looking lot. They grew crooked and bent. Their limbs were covered sparsely with plain, dull, thin needles. When the sun shone down upon them, they looked the same as when it rained. No brightly shinning needles here. But when the sun's warm rays fell upon them, they sung to each other with happiness. And when the soft gentle rain fell down all about them, they again sang with the joy of being cleansed, though most of the raindrops fell straight through their skinny needles, no jewels here to see. They were family and just enjoyed each other's company, with not a care as to how they appeared to the world. 

The days were growing colder, the sun shone less warmly, and the raindrops soon turned to snowflakes. All the trees were blanketed with a soft white shawl. The firs wished they could grow legs so they could proudly strut through a nearby town, to show off their finery. The pines were content to enjoy the beauty surrounding them. Listening to the peaceful silence the snow brought, broken only by the cheerful songs of the winter birds. Watching the red and gray squirrels scurry up and down their trunks, pausing only long enough to grab a quick lick of a snowflake as it drifts gracefully to the earth. 

The white silence of the forest was suddenly shattered with the growling of saws upon wood. Beautiful fir after fir fell to the ground. The men had come to gather many of these beautiful trees to sell to the townspeople for their Christmas celebration. The trees would be set up in homes, adorned with the finest of decorations and the empty space below the boughs filled to brimming with gifts of every shape and size imaginable. As tree after tree fell, the fir trees thought to themselves, "I am sure to be chosen first, as I am THE most beautiful tree of all!" They were loaded on a wagon and drawn to town by a pair of handsome black workhorses. A place in the park had been readied for the arrival of these gorgeous firs and they were unloaded and soon set up for sale to the townspeople. With each tree came a very large price tag, so only the most wealthy in the town could afford them. This pleased the firs even more. "Surely, we are THE most beautiful trees in the whole world. Look at the amount of money people pay to have us!" 

The people came and bought every last one of the trees, took them home and set them up for the coming holiday. The tinsel, shiny balls and expensive decorations covered the firs, making them appear even more beautiful than before. Packages were piled high and spirits rose. Children began bickering about who had the biggest package and the prettiest one under the tree. While the now decorated fir stood proud, thinking to itself, "HA, I am the prettiest of all. Prettier than any of the packages below me." 

Meanwhile, back at the forest's edge, shouts of children, leading their family to the remaining trees, echoed in the pines. 

"Look, mommy, look daddy. Hurry, hurry. Pleaseeeeeeeeeeee!!" 

"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, look they are sooooooooooooooo beautiful," the children sighed. 

As the mom and dad caught up with their excited children. They were a poor family who lived on the outskirts of town. They didn't have enough money to buy one of the fine firs at the park, so they had come to pick one of the remaining trees. The firs had all been taken and all that was left were the plain crooked pines. The children's eyes grew bright with the thought of one of these trees set up in their warm cozy home, decorated with items they had made from bits and pieces of things at home. They laughed and sang as they scouted for the "perfect" tree for their home. They had so many to choose from, it was not an easy decision. After looking long and hard, the children came upon a solitary pine tree, standing just a bit apart from the rest. It was not very tall, nor full, and was actually the most crooked of all. It was lacking boughs on one side, where a handsome buck had used the tree to help rub the velvet off his antlers that fall. The children took one look at that lone pine tree and proclaimed, "This is the one. Please, may we take this one? It looks so all alone and in need of some company." The children's parents agreed that this was the "perfect" tree to add to their Christmas Spirit. The pine was very honored to have been chosen for this special season. It knew it was not nearly as beautiful as the firs but was singing a song of joy, nonetheless. 

Several days passed. It was the day before Christmas. The children in the town were barely able to contain their excitement at the thought of ALL the presents awaiting them under their MOST beautiful trees. They bantered and bickered and each thought they had the very best and nicest of everything. They gloated at the number of presents and the amount of decorations they each had and did their best to outdo the next one. It became shameful as the wealthy parents went along with the whole thing, by adding even more presents under the tree, and finer and more expensive decorations onto their fir Christmas trees. The entire village became one big competition of who had the best, most beautifully decorated tree. The firs, themselves, began to puff up with pride, so much so, that by the time Christmas Day arrived, their beautiful full brilliant needles began to fall off. One by one, at first, then by the dozen, the needles fell. As each present was quickly grabbed from under the tree, even more needles fell to the floor, covering it like a green carpet. The children tore open each present, barely looked at it, dropped it to the floor and grabbed yet another. The once beautiful tree became less beautiful with each passing minute. By the time the presents were all unwrapped, the tree had barely any of its needles left attached. It looked barren, even with the expensive decorations hanging from its now naked boughs. It sadly drooped its once full boughs in humiliation. 

The family living at the edge of town had set up their carefully chosen sparse-needled pine tree in a place of honor in the middle of their small meagerly furnished living room. The children had made strings of popcorn and cranberries to adorn their tree. Paper chains of all shades and small hand drawn pictures added color to the now festive tree. The tree became more beautiful with every lovingly handmade item placed upon its waiting boughs. The once plain, common tree slowly changed into the most wondrous tree of all. It glowed with happiness at being a part of such a caring family occasion. The children sang with their parents as the tree was trimmed. They drank cups of foamy hot chocolate while eating the popcorn not being strung and draped on the tree. When the tree was all done, a few presents were placed beneath it. The children smiled with delight at the thought of a new toy or, perhaps, a favorite book wrapped within the pretty paper. Soon, it was Christmas day. The children carefully picked up each present from under the tree, so as not to disturb the decorations on the limbs. As they opened their few packages, they shouted with delight at the contents and thanked their giver profusely. The tree was so happy to be a part of this wonderful day. 

A few days after Christmas the time had come for the decorations to be removed and put away until the following year. All the Christmas fir trees from in town, now bare, were placed at the edge of the road for the trash men to cart off to a local burning pit. The trees cried dry embarrassed tears, wishing they had not been so beautiful. Perhaps, then, they would not have all been cut down, decorated, and finally sent off to be burned, when their beauty had faded away. They had become unwanted, useless and plainer than the pines, they so quickly had laughed at not weeks before. On the other side of town, the crooked plain pine tree, which had been made so beautiful by its decorations
and the love it shared with a poor family, wondered what would become of it when the holiday season was over. Not to fear, the paper items were removed and the tree carefully brought outside. It had heard whispers in the wind, the cries of the firs being burned and their beauty going up in smoke, and wondered, "Am I next?" But, instead of being put by the side of the road, the pine tree, still covered in popcorn and cranberries, was setup, once again, this time in a large bucket in the yard. The children added pinecones filled with peanut butter and seeds, more strings of popcorn and cranberry and dried fruits they had carefully prepared in the fall. Even most of the thin pale needles still remained. The tree looked lovelier than ever and not only was it pleasant to look at, but the birds and the squirrels enjoyed the bounty they found on its limbs. Every few days the children would add more food to the tree and it was a thing of joy for the entire winter. When spring arrived the family sadly took down the pine tree and broke off the now empty branches. They sawed up the trunk and stacked all of it neatly to use the following winter for warmth in their fire. The pine tree was glad that it had contributed so much to a family that appreciated it. Some of the seeds from the cones of its original boughs had been saved. They were dried and planted in the back yard to grow yet more cherished trees for the future. 


Copyright by barefoot warrior

 

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