Legend has it that on a cold Christmas Eve in a forest keepers cottage, as the family were gathered around the fire to keep warm, there was a knock on the door. On opening it they found a small boy lost and alone so they welcomed him into their home, washed and fed him, and put him to bed. On Christmas morning the family were awoken by a choir of angels singing, and the little boy had become Jesus the Christ child. Going out into the garden he broke a branch off a fir-tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for their kindness. Ever since then people have brought a Christmas tree into their homes to remember that night.
This German legend was my favourite out of many different stories and beliefs about the origin of the custom we have all come to love at this time of year. Christmas trees first came to Britain in the 1830s and became more popular in 1841 when Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle.
In Victorian times the trees would have been decorated with candles to represent stars, but I’m pretty sure the electric fairy lights of today are a much safer option although maybe a little less romantic.
I’ve always loved going to get my tree and hope my children can remember the times that as a warmly wrapped up family we walked through a field of firs, found our perfect tree, placed a glove on the top and waited for the farmer to chop it down. I’m not sure who came home minus a glove, but I’m sure that the Christmas joy felt was enough to warm the coldest of hands.
There were to be many years following when the responsibility of going and getting the tree would fall on my shoulders. Although it was something I always took pleasure in, from choosing the tree to seeing it haphazardly covered in sparkling little balls, precariously placed by eager little fingers, I also remember feeling a tinge of sadness each year for what I had lost, and a longing to be sharing that moment with a special someone. Being a single parent at Christmas, with the sole responsibility for everyone’s happiness is a tough place to be, and my heart goes out to all of you brave people who have either been there or are still there during this Christmas time. Be proud of what you’re achieving.
This year I am thankful that I have that someone special who the other day said: ” I’ve found somewhere to take you to get your Christmas tree”. It was such a lovely moment that if an orchestra had started up in the background I wouldn’t have been surprised, and having fetched the last 18 Christmas trees alone …well I’m sure you can guess my feeling.
Christmas trees bring us together, like a bonfire on bonfire night or a roaring open fire in a quiet country pub, they give us a reason to gather round, to hold a hand, to spend time with each other, and to stand back and look at what we have achieved by working alongside one another. They give us a reason to relax on our own, wine in hand, as we dim the lights and watch the tree as it glows in the corner, or together as we sit snuggled up on the sofa, happy and content to be in each others company and to just sit and stare. Christmas trees give us a reason just to be.
In our fast-paced world where we are often more focused on looking at a screen than smiling at a passer-by, and often too busy to take the time to really connect with those around us, I’m thankful not just for the gifts under the tree, but for the tree itself and all that it represents.
Love Alison x.