Long before we reached the Moon or even before we crossed the oceans into the New World, there was a legend about a boy who got lost in the woods.
He had left his town searching for firewood to keep the hearth warm during the coming snowstorm, but the winds brought the dark clouds earlier than the elders’ predictions. Soon enough snow was falling from the skies with a fury not seen in many seasons.
The boy wiped his face as he tried to find amongst the snowflakes the way back home.
Snow covered the boy’s tracks almost as soon as his feet left the marks behind them; there was no way to know for certain the path he had taken before. There was white in front of him, and white behind him; everywhere he looked there was a blanket of snow covering the landscape.
Walking became harder and harder. His limbs felt numb and it didn’t take much for a boy of his age to get exhausted. The cold seemed to embrace him and invite him into the realm of eternal sleep.
His eyes closed as a cloud of breath left his mouth. Snowflakes kept falling on top of him, muting the sounds of the forest.
The boy felt warmth wrapping his body. He shook the frost from his eyes and opened them one more time, not certain of how much time had passed.
It was the middle of the night, that much he could tell. Yet there was light coming from a place close by. He turned to have a better view and even though he opened his mouth in awe, no sound came through.
In front of him was a tree that shone with the light of a star; its glow tinkled, moving with a life of its own. The boy squinted his eyes and that’s when he saw them. The light came from very small people that danced around the tree, glowing as if they had a lantern in place of their hearts. Some of them flew to the highest branches using translucent wings, illuminating not only the tree but also the darkened sky.
The boy watched them dance and felt safe and warm, so he closed his eyes peacefully. Under the lights of the tree he slept through the night.
Frost glittered with the first lights of the morn by the time he woke up. The tree stood in front of him yet there was no sign of what had transpired the night before.
He knelt besides the tree, thanked the spirits of the forest and headed back to his town.
When the watchman spotted the boy he rang the bell seven times to let the rest of town know the young one had survived. In the big hall the boy told them of the tree that had protected him through the night…
And ever since, people light a tree during Winter, to save and protect everyone under its glow.
© 2013 Santiago Casares