By J.W. Burton
Once upon a time, there was a little Christmas fairy. She was a beautiful little Christmas fairy! Her lips were as pink as sugar mice, and her eyes were holly-green, like the holly sprig she wore. Her curly hair was a mane of spun gold, and her wings shimmered liked feathered frost. Her dress had a garland of roses, and was woven from golden beams that had shone from the very first Christmas Star. Her skin was covered with gleaming stars like sunlight on fresh snow, and she glowed with Christmas cheer.
The little Christmas fairy was hidden away for most of the year, making decorations for Santa Claus and his elves to scatter in the Christmas skies. She spun tiny gold stars and silver snowflakes that glittered and shone, flying here and there in flurries and fountains wherever the night was darkest. In the bleakness of December, the little Christmas fairy’s work could be seen piercing the cold night. Her magical little lights hung in the night sky, winking down at the earth, and racing in shooting showers over the heads of the people far below.
But the people did not see the Christmas fairy’s tiny lights. They did not see the love she had spun into each little piece, or the time that she spent over each one, to get it just right. But Holly-Rose, the little Christmas fairy, knew how much love she put into them, and she loved her work, and she loved the people she scattered her handiwork over.
Best of all, Holly-Rose loved Christmas time. She loved to fly above the darkened world and throw her joyful little stars and silver snowflakes onto anybody who needed some cheer in the night. Sometimes, she would spend a little time with the lonely and forgotten people, and try to warm them a little with her golden Christmas light.
Every Christmas Eve, Holly Rose flew over Christmas Wood, where people went to buy their Christmas trees. Some of the trees were upset that they weren’t chosen that year, and Holly-Rose would shower them in her starlight and keep them company.
One Christmas Eve night, as she threw handfuls of silver snowflakes over the trees, she heard a large tree talking to a small, rather pathetic-looking tree.
“You see,” said the Big Tree, “Nobody will want you. Your top branches are very spindly, and you’ve got a bushy bottom. If you had grown as strong and perfect as I have, people would want you. Next year, I shall be the tallest and most beautiful of all the trees in Christmas Wood. But as it is, Little Tree, nobody shall want you at all. You would ruin Christmas!”
Little Tree drooped sadly. He sniffed miserably.
“I can’t help how I’ve grown, Big Tree. But I would do my best to be as strong and tall as you, if somebody chose me.”
“Ha!” laughed Big Tree, shaking his branches out to fluff them up. “Who wants short and funny-looking?”
“Actually,” said Holly-Rose, flying down, “I do.”
“Oh, look, a Christmas fairy,” sniffed Big Tree. “You shine and sparkle, but all the people ignore you. What’s the point?”
Holly-Rose smiled sweetly at Big Tree, and flicked golden stars into his branches.
“The point is,” she grinned,” some people need a little Love light in the darkness, and if they have eyes to see it, they have the heart to Love it back. People who ignore the Love light miss out on the beauty, and that’s why they’re so gloomy.” And Holly-Rose threw silver snowflakes all over Big Tree, who shook them off as fast as he could.
“Keep your shiny things away from me. I’m so splendid that I don’t want you ruining my perfect branches. I don’t need you!” And Big Tree turned his back on Holly-Rose and Little Tree.
Holly-Rose looked at Little Tree, who was crying. She flitted over and sat beside him.
“Why are you crying, Little Tree?” she asked kindly.
“I’m crying,” sniffed Little Tree, “because I’ve got spindly top branches and a bushy bottom. I’m not big and strong like Big Tree. Nobody will want me, because I have nothing to make their Christmas better with.”
Holly-Rose hugged Little Tree, which is easier said than done, if you have ever tried hugging a Christmas tree.
“Little Tree,” said Holly-Rose, “you might not be as strong and tall as Big Tree, and your upper branches may be spindly, and you may have a bushy bottom, but to me, you are perfect.”
Little Tree sniffed.
“How can I be perfect when I am not perfect-looking?” he asked.
Holly-Rose smiled and hugged Little Tree tighter. She squished her nose right into his branches, and whispered into his heart.
“Little Tree, you are perfect because Love lives in you. Let Love shine into the Christmas night.”
Little Tree did not understand what Holly-Rose meant, but he thought about Love, and what it could mean. He began to feel a soft heat spreading through his trunk where his heart was, and he thought of the Christmas lights that Holly-Rose threw into the world. He thought of how they made him feel, all warm and cheery, and how he wished the people of the world could see and love them too.
As Little Tree thought, the pine resin that flowed through him began to seep out like little tears, lacing the air with a spicy scent. It glittered in the glow that came from Holly-Rose, and made him look more beautiful than grumpy Big Tree ever could.
Little Tree did not understand what was happening, but he felt Love seeping through him, and he smiled. Holly-Rose smiled too, and hovered above, scattering golden stars down onto him.
Suddenly, there was a crashing sound, and a small boy in a tatty red jumper came charging through the trees. He skidded to a halt and stared at Little Tree. He saw the most beautiful tree he had ever seen! Little Tree stood there, spindly branches at the top, and a bushy bottom, with tiny drops of pine resin shining in the night air. They were both the same size, the boy and Little Tree, and both a little tatty-looking.
The little boy completely ignored Big Tree, who had puffed out his large, perfect branches, and instead, kept staring at Little Tree. Little Tree stared back at the boy.
“Daaad!” yelled the little boy. “I found it! I found our tree! Please can we have it?”
There was more crashing, and a man in a threadbare coat appeared from behind Big Tree. He smiled at his son, and then looked at Little Tree sadly.
“I don’t know, Michael. We can’t afford one, I told you.” He looked at his son, whose eyes were shining in wonder. “And it’s not really the prettiest tree, is it? It’s got spindly branches and a bushy bottom.”
Michael giggled. “Ha ha, a bushy bottom! It’s the bestest tree in the world, Dad, and it’s perfect for us. Can’t we at least ask? Please?” He pulled at his old red jumper, where his heart would be, and stood hopping up and down next to Little Tree.
Michael’s dad looked down at him and sighed. “Alright, son. Let’s go and find the tree man.” And off they went, crashing noisily through the trees to find the tree man. Holly-Rose wriggled into Little Tree’s branches, and sat hugging him whilst they waited.
Fifteen minutes later, Michael and his dad came back with the tree man. He had agreed to give a price on the Christmas tree after he’d seen it. He took one look at Little Tree, and shook his head.
“You can ‘ave that ‘un for free. Poor mite, won’t be fit for ‘owt but firewood.”
Little Tree shivered, his pine resin twinkling under the starry skies and Holly-Rose’s glow.
“Oh, it’s not for firewood,” said Michael. “It’s our very own Christmas tree, and it’s perfect!”
The two men exchanged smiles, and the tree man dug up Little Tree’s roots, and plopped him into a large pot. Holly-Rose clung on whilst Michael and his dad struggled, carrying Little Tree two miles home on foot.
When they arrived home, Michael and his dad collapsed onto the sofa-bed of their small hostel room, gasping and laughing. They were very tired, but they had brought Little Tree (and Holly-Rose!) all the way home, and they were very pleased.
“Dad?” said Michael.
“I wish Mum was here too.” Michael sat up and looked at Little Tree, clutching his red jumper just where his heart would be. His mum had made that jumper for him, and Michael hated to take it off, even to wash it. It was two years too small, but so old that it had stretched, so it still fitted.
“I wish she was too,” answered his dad, sitting up and putting his arm round him. “And if she was, she’d ask why we’d got a tree with spindly top branches and a bushy bottom. And,” he grumped, “why we’d picked one so sticky with resin.”
Michael giggled. “But it’s not resin. It’s Christmas Magic. It’s a Magic Christmas Tree, and it smells lovely, and it glitters.” Michael got up, and carefully lit a little candle on the table. He sat down, and they looked at Little Tree, twinkling in the candlelight. Little Tree and Holly-Rose sat and looked back at Michael and his dad.
“Where do you think Michael’s mum is?” asked Little Tree.
“She died,” said Holly-Rose sadly.
“That’s awful,” said Little Tree. “Don’t they have a house? Is this one room all they have?”
Holly-Rose nodded sadly. “Last year, Michael’s dad lost his job, and now he works long hours doing anything he can find, just to feed them. He has two small pieces of chicken and a few vegetables for their Christmas dinner. And a small pudding he found reduced in a local shop. They don’t even have any custard!”
“No custard?” gasped Little Tree. He shook his spindly branches sadly and sent the wonderful aroma of his resin rising into the air. Little Tree and Holly-Rose sat together, and thought of Love. They wished they could touch Michael and his dad’s hearts with it, too, just like their own.
Michael and his dad were quiet, and sat eating toast for supper. Each of them was thinking about what they could give the other for Christmas. They had both agreed that since neither of them could afford a present on Christmas Day, they would be happy to play Scrabble and go for a walk, and not have presents at all. But of course, everybody wants to give a present to somebody they love, if they are able.
“Dad?” said Michael.
“You did tell Santa Claus we’re not doing presents, didn’t you?”
Michael’s dad nodded his head sadly.
“Just checking,” said Michael. They sat for a while longer.
“Dad?” said Michael.
“It’s a good job we’re not doing presents, because I don’t think even you or Santa could get me what I really want for Christmas.”
“What do you really want for Christmas?” asked his dad.
“Well, obviously, I’d like Mum back, but I know I can’t have that. So what I really want is snow, but it’s meant to be rainy tomorrow. Only the weathermen can give us snow, and they said it was going to rain.”
Michael’s dad smiled at him, and they sat next to Little Tree and Holly-Rose, singing a few carols and telling awful jokes. Neither of them spoke about presents again.
That night, Michael took a little longer than usual in the shared bathroom down the hall, and when he came back, he jumped into bed, clutching his red jumper just where his heart would be.
“G’night, Dad,” he said, wriggling into the sleeping bag on the sofa-bed.
“G’night, Michael,” said his dad, ruffling his hair, and kissing him on the forehead. Michael snuggled into his sleeping bag, and went to sleep smiling.
His dad stayed up a while longer, after Michael had gone to sleep. He had a job to do, and he got out some scissors and some old pieces of paper.
As he was finally going to bed, Michael’s dad whispered to Little Tree, “That’s the best we can do, Little Tree.” And he smiled sadly, got into his own sleeping bag, and went to sleep.
“He knew my name,” said Little Tree to Holly-Rose.
Holly-Rose smiled. “Sometimes,” she said, “we can know a person in our heart, even if we’ve never met them face to face. When Love is in our story, we can know many things you wouldn’t think possible.”
Little Tree shook his branches, and they rustled! He didn’t understand everything that Holly-Rose said, but he hoped that one day, he would.
“You look wonderful, Little Tree,” said Holly-Rose, admiring what Michael’s dad had done to him. “In the morning, Michael will be very excited, and so will his dad! Now, I must be off, for there are many people who need a little warming cheer this Christmas Eve. I shall be back in the morning.” And with that, Holly-Rose flitted across the room and squished herself underneath the door to get out.
Little Tree looked down at himself, smiled, and went to sleep.
A few hours later, it was Christmas Morning. The wind howled outside, and the rain lashed the window. Holly-Rose crept in under the door, and woke Little Tree.
“Merry Christmas, Little Tree,” she smiled.
“Merry Christmas, Holly-Rose,” yawned Little Tree. “How do I look?”
Holly-Rose looked at Little Tree, who was covered from spindly top to bushy bottom in paper snowflakes that Michael’s dad had made.
“You look wonderful, Little Tree,” she said. “Now, let us see what happens next…” And she flew over Michael, who was fast asleep, scattering a hot little shower of golden stars over him. They pattered down and kissed his cheek, waking him from his sleep. He yawned, and sat up.
“Dad! Dad!” Michael yelled. “It snowed! It snowed on Little Tree!” He leaped out of bed and began to dance in front of Little Tree, clutching his red jumper just where his heart was. It was very cold in the room, and Michael’s breath hung in the air like mist, but he kept dancing.
Michael’s dad peered out from his sleeping bag, bleary-eyed. He grinned to see his son hopping up and down next to the paper snowflake-covered Little Tree. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Michael jumped across the room and hugged his dad.
“We have snow!” he grinned. “I know it’s not real snow, but it’s snow!” He got up again and hopped across to Little Tree, looking at all the paper snowflakes.
“Hey, there’s writing on these snowflakes. What does it say? I can’t read them.”
His dad smiled.
“They are the love letters your mum wrote to me when we were younger, Michael. I didn’t have any paper, except those. So I made snowflakes out of her love letters.” A tear trickled down his cheek. “I know your mum wouldn’t mind.”
Suddenly, Michael was quiet, fiddling with his red jumper just where his heart was.
“What’s wrong?” asked his dad. “D-don’t you like it?” He looked at his son, worriedly.
“Oh, Dad,” replied Michael. And he dropped his hand from his jumper. There was a big hole in the red wool, just where his heart would be.
“What have you done?” His dad looked at the hole. “Did you have an accident? Are you hurt?”
“Nooo,” said Michael slowly. “But… Well, I wanted to give you something for Christmas, and I was sure Mum wouldn’t mind, and stuff, because I have nothing else to give you except… my Love. And my Love in is my heart and my red jumper that Mum made me.”
And out of his pyjama pocket, Michael pulled a red woollen heart, cut out from his jumper. It was tatty and a bit wonky, but it was definitely a heart.
His dad climbed out of his sleeping bag, got up, and hugged Michael hard. Holly-Rose and Little Tree hugged each other as they watched, making the love-written paper snowflakes rustle.
“Put your heart on our Little Tree, Michael, with our snowflakes,” said his dad.
So Michael put his tatty little woollen heart into Little Tree’s Branches. Then they stood back and admired Little Tree, whose own heart swelled with Love for Michael and his dad, squeezing out a few more tiny drops of shining resin. Holly-Rose glowed with Christmas cheer, and warmed up the chilly room.
“Our tree is covered in Love, Dad,” said Michael. “I told you it was the bestest tree in the world. And it’s a bit like Mum is with us, because it’s her Love as well as ours, isn’t it?”
Michael’s dad hugged him, and they sat by Little Tree for a long time, looking at the love-written snowflakes and the red woollen heart, and the twinkling drops of resin.
“You see, Little Tree,” said Holly-Rose, later that day, “Love is at the very heart of Christmas, no matter what shape it is in.”
And Little Tree knew that what the Christmas fairy said was true.
* * *
© 2013 by J.W. Burton • All rights reserved
This beautifully written story must be made into a wonderful illustrated children’s book. It tears at the heartstrings with a message of hope.
A wonderful but realistic story of the sentiment of Christmas. Thank you, J., for reminding us. Love Anne