Hope is such a powerful thing.
Even in the very worst of circumstances, it empowers us to expect, no, believe, that terrible things can get better, that the irredeembale can find positive change and that the dispossessed and alone can find somewhere to belong.
Just how transcendentally powerful it can be comes to gloriously to the fore in The Christmas Eve Tree, written by Delia Huddy and illustrated by Emily Sutton, which affectingly focuses on the fortunes of one small Charlie Brown-esque pine tree which doesn’t fit the accepted of festively beautiful.
It is in fact, stunted and unwanted, only finding a place of its own for Christmas because it is bundled up with another, fuller fir tree on the back of a truck heading to the city where it is, sadly but unsurprisingly, almost left behind until one small tree sees it for the treasure it is.
He isn’t one of the people who takes trees away to be placed “proudly in a cathedral”, or to stand “in the middle of a large square” or even “to decorate the stage at a grand Christmas ball”; he is a nobody in society’s eyes – quite why is best left to the reading but suffice to say he and the tree have a lot in common – but he becomes the one who rescues the tree, “fearful of what its fate might be” and who plants it in a cardboard box for the world to see.
So happy is the tree that it happily exclaims “I belong to someone now” but it is not the only one who feels the tide has turned with the boy feeling “more cheerful”, like Christmas has finally manifested itself in some beautifully unexpected way.
At this point, your heart will swell.
Both the tree and the boy have hope for something better through one act by the latter which transform the fate of the former to such an extent that others’ lives are changed for the better, from the passer-by who goes to a newsagent to buy red candles for the tree’s bare branches to the old busker who plays a Christmas song on his accordion.
As you read “Everyone started to sing”, it becomes gloriously and happily apparent that so many people are better off simply one brave boy asked one beleaguered department store person for a tree that no one else thought had any value.
It is joyful, so much so it is announced via what the cover breathlessly but truthfully announces via what the cover of the book terms “an Echanting Pop-Up Surprise” that “THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS WAS EVERYWHERE”.
It doesn’t quite last, nothing ever does not even with the magic of Christmas in full effect, with neither boy nor tree likely to get a happy-ever-after until hope intervenes and something remarkably wonderful happens.
Quite what that is wades deeply into spoiler territory but The Christmas Eve Tree ends in a way, delightfully transportive warm-hug of an artwork very much intact and in perfect march with its emotionally evocative writing, that will have you believing in the power of Christmas to make the world a much better place, not simply at Christmas, where we always hope everything will be magical, but forever where Christmases come and go but hope can remake things forever,
Even thought The Christmas Eve Tree was published a full five years ahead of the hope-shreeding ravages of the pandemic, it’s simple but richly evocative text and its joyously, retro-alive illustrations remind us that hope is not folly but something richly powerful thta will sustain us long after the last lights of the season have twinkled out to nothing.