The Little Fir Tree
By: Olivia Arieti
Winter had arrived early that year, and the trees on the hilltop were whispering nervously, dusted by the first flakes of snow; the chilly air and the icy mist tickled their firs and increased the impatience for the arrival of Christmas.
The tallest waved their tops to the wind in bold challenge, the plumpest stretched out their branches showing off the abundance of their firs, while the others watched them and sighed with the bitter awareness that being too large or too small would be a good reason to be discarded, and therefore they would have to go on waiting for who knows, how long before becoming the most glorious decoration of the house.
The little fir tree only was silent and listened to what the others had to say.
"This year is my turn," said the tallest one, "the Stevens' gardener will come and take me to their mansion. They always have a sumptuous Christmas dinner with lots of rich and elegant guests. It's an honour to stand in such a stately home," and added proudly, "I've also heard they use crystal decorations and so many lights that their Christmas trees look brighter than a starry night."
"I really don't think so," replied conceited the tree in front of him. "I may not be as tall as you, but my branches are much longer and richer and surely they'll rather have me."
The little tree shook its top in despair. Certainly, no one would ever pick such a small and thin plant with branches that looked more like twigs than boughs.
"Oh yes, I shall be the queen of the day," exclaimed most confident, the plumpest one. "The Jones are coming up and going to take me home this year. Nothing else but precious porcelain baubles and crystal angels will be my ornaments."
The little fir tree was thinking of all the colourful decorations and sweets that would be hung on the lucky friends' branches when a nasty chill pervaded the thin trunk and penetrated through the even thinner boughs that promptly bent in the attempt to embrace one another in order to leave the cold out.
The warmth of a family fireplace was still a dream; a deep sigh couldn't be avoided.
"Sorry, friends, but I'll be the first to go," said a hollow voice from the hilltop, "I am the oldest here, therefore I reckon the Mayor will choose me for the Town Hall or the main square," and remarked gravely, "I shall represent you all and be most pleased to do so."
Needless to say, that the trees went on boasting and bragging till it was almost Christmas day.
Much to their surprise though, neither the Stevens' gardener nor the Jones nor the Mayor arrived. No one at all came up the hill to take them home.
The plumpest was about to burst in tears, while the others were truly worried and kept casting their glances downhill. The situation had become alarming when they all found themselves still there on Christmas Eve.
The trees couldn't know that things had changed in the little town.
The Stevens' gardener wasn't working for them any longer; Mr Stevens had been arrested for stealing the company's money and was going to spend the holiday in prison; the Jones had broken up and consequently were celebrating on two opposite parts of the globe, while the City Hall had too many debts and too little money to afford a Christmas tree or any decorations at all.
The morning was colder than usual and bleak clouds started billowing above, but the bad weather didn't stop Jeremy from going up the fir tree hill with his wagon.
He was considered the poor boy of the area because his family, actually, was very poor. The child lived with his grandma and dad in a very small and humble house.
Despite his poverty, though, the boy's heart was warm thanks to the love of his dearest and the memory of his beloved mommy that had left them so early. She loved Christmas and bequeathed that feeling as a precious inheritance to her son.
Jeremy had already gone to the nearby woods and picked twigs of holly, mistletoe and gathered boughs of ivy to decorate the scantily furnished room. Now, all he needed was a tree!
When he reached the top of the hill, he was dismayed in front of those big trunks. They'd never fit in his little wagon.
As for the trees, they looked down on him with disdain and murmured that they'd rather spend the holiday where they were than in the poor boy's house, certainly colder than the hill itself and with no lights or decorations.
Luckily, Jeremy couldn't understand their words and went on looking for a tree he could take home. The boy was about to leave when he saw the little fir tree. It was so huddled on itself that it looked even smaller.
"You are exactly what I need!" he cried and began digging.
His little hands moved quickly and gently, with the utmost care to avoid breaking the roots. The fir tree brightened as the warmth of the boy's touch reached the trunk.
Shortly afterwards, both were on their way to Jeremy's house leaving behind all the other boisterous trees that despite their scorn, couldn't avoid following them with an envious and nostalgic glance as they disappeared downhill.
Once at home, the boy set down to work immediately and started decorating the tree with some old baubles that belonged to his dear mommy. Grandma was so pleased that she baked special Christmas cookies to hang on it. Since the baubles weren't enough, she took out of her sewing box some ribbons and made colourful bows.
When daddy came back from the fields, the tree was standing proudly near the blazing fireplace. Although decorated with simple and poor ornaments, it was so thankful and happy that all its branches glittered with love and joy.
The whole family gathered around it and the Spirit of Christmas blessed all hearts.