Among the towering ashes and oaks across the road from our house, situated beneath a small break in the (summer) leaf canopy, is our old Christmas tree.
We put it there three years ago.
By that time, it had been brought in off the patio in its pot for two Christmases, festooned with fairy lights and gold stars like a long-suffering pet in a Santa costume, and then returned to the outdoors. We would have kept it longer, if we could have, but with pine trees not having evolved to grow in pots, it wasn't long before the lower branches started to brown and we realised we needed to plant it out or, like its predecessor, watch it die.
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Now we get to see it every day and it has become, almost, an object of affection. Like a sickly child who once gave cause for concern, we stop and peer at it with a mixture of pride and anxiety – "Hasn't it grown! Look at that glossy new growth! Do you think it's getting enough light?"
Living trees are limited in size because any tree more than three feet tall needs a colossal pot to contain its root ball; too big and you can't actually move it. They don't drop as many needles, though, and the piney scent is just as intense on January 6 as Christmas Eve.
In a few weeks time, the pavements will be strewn with discarded old trees, little Cinderellas which were once the resplendent centrepieces of halls and lounges, decorated and prettified and cooed over, and then, when twelfth night chimed, left broken and dessicated on the pavement awaiting the bin lorry. It's a waste – they could at least be made into firewood.
Better if they have roots: then they can be replanted and given the chance to explode with new growth at the onset of spring, in preparation for another Christmas.