Thursday, December 30, 2010
The Christmas Tree
Every fall, just as the weather was getting cold and the snow was sticking to the ground, the young farmer would take his ax and wander into the small forest behind the simple house he shared with his wife. Every year he would cut down the finest fir tree he could find and he would drag it back to the house.
Each year all of the trees hoped that they would be the one chosen. They would stretch their branches and look full and majestic. The scrawny jack pine at the edge of the wood hoped each year that he would be picked, but he never shared his hopes with the other trees as he was sure they would just laugh at him.
One year, a disease descended on the farmer’s herd of cattle and many of them were lost. Late summer rains flooded his fields, ruining half of the crop. The farmer’s wife was pregnant with their first child and he was desperate to make any money he could.
That fall as the first snows were falling, the farmer went into the forest and cut down the biggest, tallest, fullest fir tree he could find. Instead of taking it home, he dragged it to the manor house to ask if the lord would like to buy the fine tree.
The lord of the manor did indeed pay for the tree, enough money that the farmer and his wife would have food to eat through the winter. The lord did remind the farmer though that he was only allowed to cut one tree out of the forest each year for Christmas.
The farmer returned to his home, very happy and thankful that he had a pocket full of money but also sad that he would have no tree for Christmas. His wife assured them that they didn’t need a tree, that they should just thank God that the wealthy man who owned all of the land that they lived on and worked on was so generous.
On Christmas Eve, as his wife worked so hard in the kitchen to put a feast of wild partridge and old potatoes on the table for them, he snuck out of the house, grabbed his ax from the barn and headed into the wood. He knew he couldn’t go against the lord’s wishes, but he also knew that no one would miss the skinny, bent jack pine on the edge of the forest.
He chopped it down and took it home. The farmer’s wife decorated it with scraps of ribbon and stars cut from old newsprint. The jack pine was the happiest tree ever.
Shortly after Christmas, the farmer took the little pine out to the wood pile. As winter descended and cold gripped the young couple, each night the farmer would bring in an armful of hard wood from the pile, overlooking the scrubby pine.
One morning, when the farmer’s wife was nearly ready to deliver, the farmer looked around the small house and realized that there was no cradle for the baby. His wife told him that they would manage without one, that they didn’t need the luxury of a bed for their child. The farmer however went out to the wood pile to see what he could find.
All of the hard wood was too valuable; it was already dried and would make the warmest fires as cold winter nights dragged on. Finally he spotted the scraggly used Christmas tree. He immediately started to work on the cradle.
The jack pine couldn’t believe it. Not only had he gotten to be the Christmas tree in their house, but now he would hold their precious baby.