A Tree for Christmas

Another seasonal story, but from a different perspective.

A tap at the door. Another customer. I struggled into my wellies for the sixth time that day, picked up my spade and sallied forth.

I had watched our little plantation of Norway spruce trees grow from tiny plants, transplanted, watered and weeded them and now I was selling them for Christmas. Selling them freshly dug and with roots on too – that was the big attraction. My customers were mostly parents whose offspring accompanied them with great excitement, running up and down the rows, overflowing with anticipation of Christmas.

I did hear of a move to standardise Christmas trees. Whoever thought of that had obviously never sold any, for tastes in trees differ widely. Some people like tall thin trees with well-spaced branches to hang parcels on. Others prefer their tree with spreading branches; they obviously have a large house to put it in – a tree can  be a status symbol too! Then there are the popular short, dumpy trees with lots of little stems to hold decorations, but not taking up too much room.

The most unlikely trees sell. I regarded the one with a long bare leader as a poor specimen, but a customer was thrilled with it as a good way of displaying a fairy on the top; it would fit neatly into a corner out of the way, she said. Some customers choose their tree in two minutes, others take twenty and endless discussions ensue.

Then I had to dig – and dig. Some kind gentlemen take a spade and help me, but others just stand and watch. Perhaps they had bad backs. I dug first round the tree and then under it: little ones were easy, but five or six footers took some moving. A tug this way and that, a heave and the tree was out.

It had spent eight years in our garden, rain and snow had fallen on it in winter; the sun had baked it in summer; birds had perched on its branches and its fresh green growth had charmed us in the springtime. Where would its new home be? First it would go into a hot dry room, dressed up and in pride of place. Later it would be cast out in the cold again, left in a bucket for weeks, almost forgotten and ultimately planted in a different garden among strange trees. Would it be happy in its new surroundings? Would its new owners cherish it as I had done?

Generally speaking, yes, they would. Many of my customers came back each year, well satisfied with the previous year’s purchase. Their tree, they would tell me, had shed no needles over the carpet and had flourished. They had planted it out, watered it well in summer and now it was putting on new growth. They could not bear to disturb it, so wanted to buy another this Christmas; a rooted tree was so much nicer and had a lovely smell. I helped them load the tree into their car and waved them off, parents and children happily planning together: ‘Mummy can we decorate it tonight?’

Prince Albert by Winterhalter 1842

I eased off my wellies and put the kettle on. Would I have time for a snack before the next contingent arrived?

Prince Albert had certainly started something.


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