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What Can A Christmas Tree Teach Us?

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the role of the Christmas tree.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available the carol ‘Oh Christmas tree’ and the means to play it at the end of the assembly (optional).


  1. How many of you are getting excited about getting your Christmas tree? Some of you may have your tree up already.

    You could take a straw poll here and see who puts theirs up and when.

    Traditionally, they were put up on Christmas Eve and kept until 6 January, Twelfth Night, but today there are people who do so as early as the beginning of December.

  2. I was thinking about the Christmas tree when, suddenly, it made me sad. I am sure you’re thinking, ‘How can a Christmas tree possibly make anyone sad?’ Well, let me tell you.

  3. I wonder if you’ve ever considered what your tree has been through before you arrive to buy it from the garden centre or elsewhere. 

    To grow a Christmas tree – from seed to a 2-metre (7-foot) tree – takes between 8 and 12 years. So, it is possible that, if you have a real tree, it may be as old as you or one of your siblings.  

    First, the seeds are extracted from cones harvested from older trees. These seeds are then usually germinated and grown in nurseries, then sold to Christmas tree farms when they are three to four years old. They are then cultivated until they have grown to the desired size, when they are cut down and transported to the garden centres and so on, ready for us to buy them.

  4. We choose our trees carefully and take them home. Once there, we adorn them with lights, baubles and stars. We bring them into our homes for us to enjoy in this way, then, after Twelfth Night (6 January), they are taken down, left outside and recycled, sawn up and shredded. They are transient things in our lives and are grown for the sole purpose of being our Christmas trees.

    I am always a little worried about the ones that aren’t bought by somebody. What happens to them? I think I would rather not know.

  5. We can, of course, buy synthetic Christmas trees that we can use year after year, if we are worried this is all rather wasteful, but then we’d miss out on the special character and scent of a real tree that makes Christmas for many people.

  6. The thing about all Christmas trees is they bring much joy to people – and not in the materialistic way that is sometimes the case with Christmas. 

  7. Think about your Christmas tree, whether it’s up already or you’re going to wait a little while before getting yours. Who puts it up? Many people do this as a family. The baubles and other decorations are ceremoniously brought down from the loft and everyone helps. You might even play carols and other Christmas music while you’re doing it. Perhaps somewhere on your tree is a decoration that you made when you were little. You may buy one or more new baubles or decorations each year. Maybe you have some decorations that belonged to your grandparents.

  8. A Christmas tree brings joy and light into any home. One of the best things about the dark nights is that, when you are walking around, you can see peoples’ Christmas trees in their windows, shining out, sparkling through the gloom. Their evergreen leaves hint at the eternal nature of this tradition. Families put presents round the tree and, by the giving and receiving of gifts, they express their love together and for one another.

  9. So, although it will be sad when we take down and recycle this year’s tree, remember and appreciate it just that little bit more for the joy it gives you. 

Time for reflection

Quietly think about your tree and be thankful.

Dear Lord,
Be with those people who will not have a tree this year. 
May we always be grateful for the special things that we enjoy at Christmastime.


‘The holly and the ivy’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 713, 2008 edition)

‘Oh Christmas tree’ (see ‘Preparation and materials’)

Publication date: December 2014   (Vol.16 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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