Once upon a time, just a month or so ago, the king of a burg not far from the North Pole summoned the local woodsmen to his palace.
“Find the tallest Christmas tree in all the land, cut it down, erect it in the town square and decorate it for all to see,” King Denis commanded.
The woodsmen scoured the forests, but alas, they could not find one that was taller than the one already erected in the kingdom of New York, which traditionally had the tallest Christmas tree in all the land.
As Christmas drew nearer, the woodsmen returned to their king and explained that a taller tree was not to be found in time this year.
“Not to worry,” said the king, who had the reputation of being a pit bull but who was actually a merry old soul. “We’ll try again next year. Meanwhile, find the tallest Christmas tree you can for this year.”
And so the woodsmen set out again.
Lo and behold, with only a month before Christmas, they spied a tall balsam fir tree near a little village east of the king’s burg.
“It’s kinda scrawny,” one woodsman said.
Said the other: “True. Scrawny it is. But it is healthy. Not a dead branch on it, and more important, it’s the tallest Christmas tree we’ve found, almost 90 feet, and we’re running out of time. It will have to do.”
“But it could grow even taller and its branches bigger, making it the tallest tree in all the land next year or the year after. People might say we cut down a tree before it was ready,” the first woodsman said.
Said the other: “We’ll tell them it was near the end of its life. What do the peasants know about the life cycles of trees? They are ignorant.” He laughed. “Let’s get on with it! There’s money to be made.”
And so they took up their long two-man crosscut saw.
A red squirrel in the tree chattered down at them, while a blue jay screamed at them . . . to no avail.
The men cut and cut and cut, and the life blood of the tree began to stream from its wound until finally, it groaned in agony as it collapsed onto the ground. The squirrel and the blue jay, who had abandoned the tree before it fell, cried out in shock, and those who had ears understood that they had just suffered a great loss, as had so many other creatures in the neighbourhood. They had lost an old friend who had sheltered them from the wind and the rain and the snow, and who had nourished them, and loved them . . . and who had loved life under the sky in the beautiful landscape of the countryside. The red squirrel and the blue jay and all the other woodland creatures innately understood that whatever force animated them also animated the balsam fir tree.
With nary a thought for any of the creatures, the men loaded the tree onto a cart and took it to the town square where they erected it on a tall pedestal. They had naught for decorations, but a local shopkeeper gave them some triangle-shaped advertisements to use. “They’re red and green,” he said. (See photo at top.)
“They’ll do,” the woodsmen chimed.
And so the remains of the great friend of the red squirrel and blue jay and all the other woodland creatures was adorned in cheap advertisement, and the peasants of the kingdom came to look at it.
“It’s the saddest most pathetic christmas tree I ever saw!”
“It is pretty sad.”
“Did Charlie Brown pick this tree?!”
“It’s very skinny for a Christmas tree. Boo hoo!”
“Poor Montreal tree. Withstanding ridicule for being too old, not tall enough, not having the right look some people expect in a tree, not enough of something “up top,” or the right wardrobe of decorations, and cruel comparison to other, flashier, more desirable trees, even though it’s perfectly well qualified to be a Christmas Tree. Hmmmm, welcome to womanhood, tree.”
(Editor’s note: all of the above comments and more can be found in the reader’s comments section of a Montreal Gazette article about the tree.)
And so it went, day after day. The people came and laughed at the tree, and scorned it, while it continued to weep sap.
It became a laughingstock on social media, and soon people around the world were ridiculing it.
Or I should say, they ARE ridiculing it, because this is a story in progress.
So far, this is a true story, with some embellishment. The facts are: Montreal wanted the tallest Christmas tree in North America, but came up short — and came up with a tree that is drawing derision around the world.
Few are actually thinking about the life of the tree, what it was, what it meant to those creatures in its natural environment.
I have my doubts the tree will remain in the heart of Montreal for the Christmas season, because of the negative reaction to it. I can see the city sending it off to the wood chipper or garbage dump well before Christmas — which would be even more of a waste than it already is.
How sad, though, that such a noble tree has been subjected to all of this.
What a very sad statement about mankind during the Christmas season this whole incident has become — with the end yet to be written.
I can’t help but think that Jesus would never have wanted this tree to be slain and ridiculed in his name.
Top photo credit: Canadian Tire advertisements are used as “decorations” on Montreal’s Christmas tree. (Cropped from Twitter)