Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of Dallas Lore Sharp > Text of Christmas Tree

An essay by Dallas Lore Sharp

The Christmas Tree

Title:     The Christmas Tree
Author: Dallas Lore Sharp [More Titles by Sharp]

We shall not go back to town before Christmas, any way. They have a big Christmas tree on the Common, but the boys declare they had rather have their own Christmas tree, no matter how small; rather go into the woods and mark it weeks ahead, as we always do, and then go bring it home the day before, than to look at the tallest spruce that the Mayor could fetch out of the forests of Maine and set up on the Common. Where do such simple-minded children live, and in such primitive conditions that they can carry an axe into the woods these days and cut their own Christmas tree? Here on the Hills of Hingham, almost twenty miles from Boston.

I hope it snows this Christmas as it did last. How it snowed! All day we waited a lull in the gale, for our tree was still uncut, still out in the Shanty-Field Woods. But all day long it blew, and all day long the dry drifts swirled and eddied into the deep hollows and piled themselves across the ridge road into bluffs and headlands that had to be cut and tunneled through. As the afternoon wore on, the storm steadied. The wind came gloriously through the tall woods, driving the mingled snow and shadow till the field and the very barn were blotted out.

"We _must_ go!" was the cry. "We'll have no Christmas tree!"

"But this is impossible. We could never carry it home through all this, even if we could find it."

"But we 've marked it!"

"You mean you have devoted it, hallowed it, you little Aztecs! Do you think the tree will mind?"

"Why--yes. Wouldn't you mind, father, if you were a tree and marked for Christmas and nobody came for you?"

"Perhaps I would--yes, I think you 're right. It is too bad. But we 'll have to wait."

We waited and waited, and for once they went to bed on Christmas Eve with their tree uncut. They had hardly gone, however, when I took the axe and the lantern (for safety) and started up the ridge for the devoted tree. I found it; got it on my shoulder; and long after nine o'clock--as snowy and as weary an old Chris as ever descended a chimney--came dragging in the tree.

We got to bed late that night--as all parents ought on the night before Christmas; but Old Chris himself, soundest of sleepers, never slept sounder! And what a Christmas Day we had. What a tree it was! Who got it? How? No, old Chris did n't bring it--not when two of the boys came floundering in from a walk that afternoon saying they had tracked me from the cellar door clear out to the tree-stump--where they found my axe!

I hope it snows. Christmas ought to have snow; as it ought to have holly and candles and stockings and mistletoe and a tree. I wonder if England will send us mistletoe this year? Perhaps we shall have to use our home-grown; but then, mistletoe is mistletoe, and one is n't asking one's self what kind of mistletoe hangs overhead when one chances to get under the chandelier. They tell me there are going to be no toys this year, none of old Chris's kind but only weird, fierce, Fourth-of-July things from Japan. "Christmas comes but once a year," my elders used to say to me--a strange, hard saying; yet not so strange and hard as the feeling that somehow, this year, Christmas may not come at all. I never felt that way before. It will never do; and I shall hang up my stocking. Of course they will have a tree at church for the children, as they did last year, but will the choir sing this year, "While shepherds watched their flock by night" and "Hark! the herald angels sing"?

I have grown suddenly old. The child that used to be in me is with the ghost of Christmas Past, and I am partner now with Scrooge, taking old Marley's place. The choir may sing; but--

"The lonely mountains o'er
And the resounding shore
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament!"

I cannot hear the angels, nor see, for the flames of burning cities, their shining ranks descend the sky.

"No war, or battle's sound,
Was heard the world around;
The idle spear and shield were high uphung"

on that first Christmas Eve. What has happened since then--since I was a child?--since last Christmas, when I still believed in Christmas, and sang with the choir, "Noel! Noel!"?

But I am confusing sentiment and faith. If I cannot sing peace on earth, I still believe in it; if I cannot hear the angels, I know that the Christ was born, and that Christmas is coming. It will not be a very merry Christmas; but it shall be a most significant, most solemn, most holy Christmas.

The Yule logs, as the Yule-tide songs, will be fewer this year. Many a window, bright with candles a year ago, will be darkened. There will be no goose at the Cratchits', for both Bob and Master Cratchit have gone to the front. But Tiny Tim is left, and the Christ Child is left, and my child is left, and yours--even your dear dreamchild "upon the tedious shores of Lethe" that always comes back at Christmas. It takes only one little child to make Christmas--one little child, and the angels who companion him, and the shepherds who come to see him, and the Wise Men who worship him and bring him gifts.

We can have Christmas, for unto us again, as truly as in Bethlehem of Judea, a child is born on whose shoulders shall be the government and whose name is the Prince of Peace.

Christ is reborn with every child, and Christmas is his festival. Come, let us keep it for his sake; for the children's sake; for the sake of the little child that we must become before we can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is neither kings nor kaisers, but a little child that shall lead us finally. And long after the round-lipped cannons have ceased to roar, we shall hear the Christmas song of the Angels.

"But see! the Virgin blest
Hath laid her Babe to rest--"

Come, softly, swiftly, dress up the tree, hang high the largest stockings; bring out the toys--softly!

I hope it snows.

[The end]
Dallas Lore Sharp's essay: The Christmas Tree