This is a lovely story which we tell our visiting schoolchildren at Christmas time. We thought you might like to share it with your families and friends. Get your listeners involved with the sound effects of the storm and the birds to really bring it to life!
There was once a great forest which grew up the sides of a tall, steep mountain. The trees stopped growing only where the rocky tips of the mountain reached into the clouds.
The forest had grown here for years and years; ever since the oldest people in the village at the bottom of the mountain could remember and probably even before they were born.
Like the villagers, the trees were all of different ages and heights. The largest of them, the great grandparent trees which had been there ever since the forest started to grow, were twice as tall as houses and had trunks so wide that it was impossible for one person to reach all the way around them. Smaller than these and not so old, were the grandparent trees and the parent trees. And finally, no taller than you or me, were the youngest trees of all, the baby trees.
Although they were of different sizes, all the trees in the forest had something in common. Their branches swept gracefully to the ground and were covered, not in leaves, but in thick green needles which they kept all year round to protect them from the cold. Because of this the trees were known as ‘evergreens’.
One winter, just as snow was beginning to settle on the mountain, weighing down the branches of the trees and making them bow even lower to the ground than usual, the north wind began to blow. The villagers at the foot of the mountain hurried indoors from the biting cold, closed their shutters and drew their chairs closer to their cosy fires.
The bitterly cold wind blew gently at first but steadily gained in strength. In the dark sky, the clouds gathered thicker so that the stars could no longer be seen. The trees in the forest shivered, snow dropping from their branches.
Time passed and, as it did so, the wind blew in stronger and stronger gusts, swirling the snow around and around into great drifts. The trees in the forest shivered and shook, bracing themselves against the wind. As the night wore on, the wind grew stronger and faster, louder and louder until it roared its way all around the mountain. The trees in the forest were pushed this way and that, clinging with their roots to the stony mountain soil below. But the smallest of the trees did not have the strength to withstand the wind’s force and soon they were being ripped from the ground and caught up into the spiral of the
For days, the storm continued; stronger, faster and angrier than ever. Soon even the parent trees and the grandparent trees were being pulled from the ground and smashed against the mountainside. Then as suddenly as the storm had started, it stopped. Everything became quiet and still. The villagers at the bottom of the mountain crept timidly out of their houses to see what damage had been done to their forest. Up towards the mountain they climbed but when they reached where the forest should have been they found that it was no longer there. In its place was a vast expanse of devastation. Broken trees lay everywhere – it seemed as if every single tree in the forest had been destroyed.
The villagers stood in silence. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Unexpectedly, out of the silence, they heard the sweet sound of birdsong. Where could it be coming from they wondered? There, on the far side of the mountain, stood one solitary remaining tree, one of the great grandparent trees. The oldest tree in the forest, it still stood strong, having survived the terrible storm. And on its topmost branch perched a beautiful yellow bird singing as if celebrating the new day. As the villagers watched in wonder, more birds appeared on the end of the tree’s branches and these were all of different colours – red, green, orange, pink and blue. All of them were singing so that the air was filled with their beautiful sound.
The villagers were so happy that at least this, the strongest of the trees had survived the storm and protected all the birds of the forest. So every midwinter from that time onwards, they covered the tree with brightly coloured decorations, to remind them of how the tree had given shelter to all the birds in the forest.
And that is how the first Christmas tree came to be decorated and how it is that, every year, we decorate trees at Christmas.