The Best Christmas Tree

There's no right or wrong for finding the best Christmas tree, but the mom in today's story sits at the top of the list for her dedication to the season.

What would you say are your favorite holiday memories? For me, so much of it has to do with our Christmas tree. When I was young, we’d get ours from a small tree stand my aunt and uncle owned, but when we got older, we went out to cut down our own tree. We might have only done it once for all I remember, but the experience of it stuck with me into adulthood. I mean, I also have a soft spot for Clark Griswald, but who doesn’t?! The best Christmas tree must be hand-cut!

Once I was an adult, I’d settle for nothing other than a tree I cut myself. Fresh from the earth, no waiting for branches to “rest” and sometimes you’d even end up with an old bird’s nest or, if you’re unlucky, a surprise infestation of Box Elder bugs flapping around your house (ask me how I know!) Nonetheless, cutting down a tree isn’t the easiest task, but there’s just something extra special about it.

Today’s story is about cutting down the best Christmas tree, but not just any tree. I picked today’s story, not just because it’s the most obviously relevant story to send on our last day together before “the big day” for those who celebrate, but because I love “The Most Unforgettable Christmas Tree” by Christa Chevalier for the pure heart of it.

In today’s story, a mother literally risks her life for a Christmas tree, and when it’s too big for her apartment to handle, well … keep reading to find out. It gets better. I also adore the illustrations we published with this story. I hope you enjoy it, and Merry Christmas to those celebrating it this weekend (Happy Sunday to everyone else!).

Discover More Stories of Healing Gardens

This story comes from our archive spanning over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject stories of healing gardens into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!

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The Most Unforgettable Christmas Tree

Mom’s brave deed.

By Christa Chevalier

It was Christmas Eve, 1947, but there was no Christmas tree in our apartment or in any of the other five apartments in our building. Our city, Dresden, had been firebombed and was now under Russian control. There were three pine trees left in what used to be a park, but anyone found cutting one of those down would’ve been shot if seen by a passing Russian patrol.

My brother (5) and I (10) stood at our kitchen window. Our sad faces pressed against the window pane as we watched the falling snow cover the piles of charred bricks on our street. Dad sat at the kitchen table, thumbing through a Christmas storybook. Mom, who had lit a candle and placed it on the windowsill, placed one hand on my brother’s shoulder, one hand on mine, and studied the swirling snow. Looking up at her reflection in the window, I saw her eyes narrow and felt her fingertips at my shoulder—then she suddenly turned and walked out of the kitchen. A few minutes later, I heard our front door close.

Dad kept reading, until my brother yelled, “Mom!” We had just seen her leave our building, wrapped in her old scarf, her right arm holding a bulging object under her coat. Dad put his book down and hurried to the window, but Mom had already been swallowed up by the blowing snow.

Dad sat my brother and me down and read us Christmas stories while we all waited anxiously. One hour later, Mom came into the kitchen, coated with snow. She waved to Dad to follow her and walked back out. Of course, my brother and I hurried right behind them. Mom led us down the stairs and out the front door, where a large pine tree lay in the snow.

My brother yelled, “Mom!” We had just seen her leave the building.

Throwing all caution aside, Mom had gone to the park where the three pine trees had survived the firebombing. She chose one and cut it down, but due to the darkness and swirling snow, she hadn’t realized how big it was until it fell to the ground. Undiscouraged, she rolled, pulled, and pushed the tree back to our building. Dad scratched his chin and squinted nervously into the swirling snow. He shook his head. The tree was too big for our apartment.

Mom wiped the snow from her forehead, looked up at our dark building, and said, “Let’s share it.”

Mom and Dad pulled the tree into the building, and Dad sawed it into three pieces. They took one piece to each of the three floors. My brother and I rang all the doorbells.

People opened their doors only a little bit and looked carefully out. But when they saw it was us, everyone opened their doors wide and came out and smiled at their share of the pine tree. Soon, moving quietly in the dim light of candles, everyone decorated their pieces.

It was past midnight. The last ornament had been hung. A single voice began to quietly sing “Silent Night.” Very softly, not to give ourselves away to any passing Russian patrol, the rest of us joined in.

By Christa Chevalier, published originally in 2016-17, in GreenPrints Issue #108. Illustrated by The Author

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Do you have a similar or related story you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear it!


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