Now once again the time to take down christmas decorations is upon us, as the Northern world spins inexorably towards the springtime. According to an old English tradition, it is bad luck to keep your decorations past the Twelfth Night of Christmas, or January 6th. Other traditions say otherwise; and from a practical viewpoint, the local council where I live has set the deadline for throwing away your Christmas trees as January 29th.
It is whilst walking past the council collection points, where dozens of bedraggled conifers are left, or seeing their even more forlorn companions in some skip or alleyway, that the actual tradition of christmas trees and their rather careless fate begins being called into question. There are older traditions from which Christmas Trees originate; ones which speak of fire and passion, and though we may be seen by some to live in more ‘civilised’ times nevertheless speak of a more honest and authentic connection to one’s surroundings.
All of this musing culminated in a vision one evening which I shall share with you below.
A Tale of Real Christmas
The evergreen symbol of a renewing world
The needles resplendent in shiny green
In times gone by, a potent story told
And now, as frost takes hold again, what does it mean?
We used to cut the trees (not many) down
And use one or maybe two per town
To sacrifice as burning offering of light
A recognition of winter’s dark grip of night
And how we overcome this with fire, merriment, and delight.
The burning Yule log – that’s the Christmas Tree
The burning of our old fears setting us free
Welcoming New Years and filling us with glee…
Now come and see the sad reality…
The trees cut down, as in the old tradition
But each house takes one, and for every taken, a dozen unsold
The decorations sparkle and the tree’s condition
Is celebrated, until it starts to get old
Then thousands, millions make their way out to the streets
To landfills, incinerators, far away from those who tossed
Them away with all the other Christmas treats
A culture writhing in a story lost?
Last night I passed one such pathetic pine
Sitting forlornly, bedecked with ice and dust
Beside a church. Yet as I watched, it reared its needled top, still fine
Raised itself, and began to move inside the house of the divine
The congregation, sparse and few, turned their heads in surprise
Their faces frozen, as the tree began its cries:
“If you will cut me down like this, think on!
Why did you take me from my snowy homeland
To reject me now your ‘festival’ is gone?
You should be respecting the trees and lives of your own land
But since I am here now, finish what you have begun!”
So saying, the bedraggled thing came up the central aisle
(The vicar rushing forward, attempting some kind of authority)
And, still moving all the while, shouted
“So you want the celebration? Then burn me!
Take me and consume me with the fire of joy
The flames of warm acceptance of the season’s cold!
Take me now and set the fires together!
Before your indifference stops all stories being told!”
And the people, numb with shock, took the tree
And did as they were told, though they made it outside for safety
And something happened as the branches began to blaze,
The faces of the congregation subtly changing
Each meeting each other’s eye with clear and honest gaze
And with the earth and sky
Once more engaging.