The Short Sad Life of a Christmas Tree

Born on a vast, flat tract of land in Tennessee, a small Virginia pine was raised among hundreds of other saplings on a tree farm. Without parents, or family, or community, like the wild pine saplings have, it never learned its history, or the pine tree stories, or the long, low songs of the pines. It never even learned the pine tree language. Alienated from the web of life, sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, it led an isolated existence.

Each day on the tree farm blended into the next, and the little tree grew and grew. Spring arrived and blossomed into summer. Summer ripened into fall. Winter came, followed by spring again. Then, one day, for no apparent reason, men appeared with axes and began to chop down the trees. They chopped down one after another until they reached and chopped our small tree down, too.

In agony, bleeding from its stump, the tree was loaded onto a truck. Piled among many others it traveled hundreds of miles to a large city. Unloaded, sprayed with flame retardant, it found itself in a market. On display, it soon learned that it was to be sold, that it would live in a home, with a family. This gave it hope. I hope I’ll live with a nice family, it thought.

After leaning about in a crowd of trees for several days, a group of humans arrived who inspected and ultimately purchased the tree. They brought it to their home. Tending to it with care, they fed it fresh water. Though it felt weak, and its stump continued to throb, it was warm and comfortable in the house. The people adorned it with precious decorations, and treated it with respect. They even sang to it.

Weeks passed, and the tree was feeling happy. It had finally found a home. All of its years of loneliness and confusion on the tree farm were redeemed, it thought. It was finally loved. One morning, however, for no apparent reason, the people who had been caring for it removed its multicolored lights. An ominous feeling settled over the tree as they lifted its decorations from its branches and placed these in boxes. Helplessly it breathed in the scent of what it thought was its home and watched as it was dragged across the room, through the door, and out to the curb at the edge of the sidewalk. Piled among the garbage bags it asked a similarly situated tree (it had learned a few words of English since its time at the farm): are we garbage too? What will become of us?

Soon we’ll be mulch, replied the other. Hopefully they’ll be quick about it.

As the sky grew dark, and the air grew colder, the tree could see a dozen like it arrayed up and down the sidewalk among the bags of garbage, beneath the bare branches of street trees. Waiting, wondering what was to come, the tree’s thoughts returned to its earlier life on the tree farm. Was this what it all led to?

Before dawn broke a group of anarchists rode out of the shadows and up to the trees. Lifting one after another from the curb, they strapped the trees to their bicycles. Soon they were pedaling along a wide, well-lit road. The ride through the cool night air was exhilarating. Where would they end up next, wondered the tree.

Before too long they arrived at the beach. A short distance away waves slapped at the shore. Dragged through the sand, the little tree realized that it was being tossed atop a towering bonfire of Christmas trees. As flames devoured its needles, and its dried out branches snapped and popped, it looked out at the sea and the moon. Shooting from the pyre toward the heavens, sparks appeared to briefly mingle with the stars. At least it’s warm, it thought. And then it thought no more.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at and on twitter @elliot_sperber