Once upon a time, on an early spring day, a young fir tree named Freddie was born. Curious about the voices of the wind and rain, he pushed out of the tiny seed that protected him and began his journey toward life above ground. It was hard work and took a long time, but finally he saw the sun for the first time and was very proud of himself. Greeted by the creatures of the forest, Freddie happily uncurled his branches, ready to begin growing.
As time passed, Freddie grew from a tiny baby into a strong young tree, and while he was growing, he made many new friends. One of his best friends was an old sycamore tree named Sam, who had seen many seasons pass. Same loved teaching Freddie about the ways of the forest, and was like a grandfather to the young tree. Freddie was also friends with the neighborhood children, and when they wanted to climb him, he held his branches low so that they wouldn’t fall and get hurt. He loved the sounds of the children’s laughter and his friends, so the seasons passed happily for him.
Spring and summer slowly turned to fall and finally the chill of winter arrived. It was the time of year the forest creatures loved best, because it was a time when the young ones gathered around Sam to hear stories about the human world. Freddie listened excitedly as Sam told them about the lights and singing, and of a man named Santa Claus who flew all over the world to leave gifts for good children. The story he liked most, though, was about the first Christmas tree.
“Once upon a time,” Same explained, “when the world was very new, there was no Christmas. But then God gave humans a very special gift– his son, Jesus. Jesus made the world a better place, and Christmas is when humans celebrate his birthday. In the winter, other trees lose their leaves, but the fir tree stays green as a symbol of life and hope. That’s why, every year, the tallest and most beautiful trees are taken into the humans’ homes and decorated.”
There were other stories told that night, but Freddie didn’t hear them. He was too busy wondering how it would feel to be part of Jesus’ birthday party. Later, as he slept, he dreamt of the lights and ornaments and saw himself being decorated by the children who lived nearby. When he woke, he could hardly wait for Christmas to arrive.
He tried not to think about it until he heard a family of squirrels talking about how it was almost Christmas Day. Freddie wondered what was wrong with him and was upset when he watched a car pull into a driveway down the road. Hanging off the roof was one of the biggest trees he’d ever seen. It was so big that three men had to untie it and carry it into the house together. All Freddie could do was watch his Christmas dream shatter when he realized he wouldn’t be chosen.
“Why doesn’t anyone want me?” he mumbled.
A nosy bluejay that had been resting in his branches decided to explain it to him. “Everyone knows you’re too little to be a Christmas tree,” she squawked. Her mother scolded her from a nearby tree, and as she flew away, Freddie covered his eyes with his limbs so no one would see the tears of sap flow down his cheeks.
Only Sam had heard what the mean bluejay had said, and he tried to help his friend feel better. “Don’t cry, Freddie. It’s alright.”
“No it’s not,” Freddie cried. “All I wanted was to be the special Christmas tree, but I can’t and it’s because I’m too little. I’ve been growing and growing since I was born and I’m not good enough! I’ll never be good enough!”
He continued to cry and Sam bent low, patting him with a gnarled branch. “Freddie, we’re all different in some way, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. Look at me. My bark peels off every spring. You could say that makes me ugly, but squirrels and birds use it to build their nests. And think about little Holly over there,” he continued, pointing to a small bush covered with razor-sharp leaves. “You might think that her leaves are too prickly to be useful to anyone, but there are many creatures that live in her branches because she protects them. Everything has a purpose, Freddie. In time you’ll find out what makes you special.”
“You really think so?” he sniffled.
“Of course I do,” Sam reassured him.
Freddie knew that Sam had always been honest with him and felt better. A few days later, he found out what Sam had known all along: that he did have a special purpose. Freddie had just awoken from a nap when he heard the sound of children’s laughter ringing through the forest. Curious, he bent this way and that, trying to see who was there. He was surprised to see several children walking through the woods with their parents. The adults were carrying boxes and all of them seemed to be looking for something, although Freddie couldn’t imagine what that could be.
“Daddy, Daddy! I found one!” a little boy shouted, running toward an oak tree.
“No Andrew,” his father answered, “we don’t want that one.”
“Why?” Andrew asked.
“Well, it’s not a Christmas tree. See how all its leaves have fallen off? A Christmas tree stays green even when its cold and snowy.”
Freddie perked up when he heard this and waved his branches, hoping they would see him.
“Please pick me,” he whispered.
Suddenly, a little girl who was with them noticed Freddie and stumbled over to him. Putting her arms around his trunk, she gave him a hug. Freddie bent his branches down to hug her back and held his breath as the adults approached. Had they really been talking about Christmas trees? For a moment, the whole forest seemed to stand still and then, just when he thought he would burst with excitement, the girl’s mother took her hand.
“What did you find, Eliza?”
“A Christmas tree!” the little girl whispered, as if revealing a big secret.
“That’s right, sweetheart, this tree is perfect. We can see it from the kitchen window, and its just short enough that you can sit on Daddy’s shoulders and put the star on top.”
The little girl’s face beamed with the same joy that Freddie felt when he realized his dream had come true. He watched as they opened the boxes and marveled at all the decorations inside. There were red tinsels that sparkled, shiny round ornaments, plastic icicles and many twinkling lights that the adults wound through his branches. One by one the ornaments were carefully hung, and when they were finished, Eliza’s father lifted her up and she put a silver star atop Freddie’s head.
When they plugged in the lights and clapped at how beautiful Freddie looked, he knew that Same had been right. He had discovered his special purpose. He might not ever be tall enough to be an indoor Christmas tree, but he was perfect for a little girl and her brother to decorate. He would always stand in the woods, helping to make children happy at Christmas time. This was his special gift and he held his branches high with pride as the family began to sing:
Oh Christmas tree,
Oh Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Not only green when summer’s here
But in the coldest time of year.
Oh Christmas tree,
Oh Christmas tree
How lovely are your branches!