Every year, the morning before Christmas, the woodcutters came to cut down the tallest, straightest tree in the forest. The tree was taken to the village square and an old man would come bringing stars and ribbons and all kinds of decorations from his workshop in the mountains.
This year as usual, the woodcutters had cut down the tallest, straightest tree and set it up in the square. The children waited for the decorations. But the old man did not come.
He had set off from the snowy peaks, but near the center of the forest he had sat down for a rest. There he listened to the birds arguing and complaining to a large owl.
The owl, in a very bent and twisted tree, was shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head, saying, "I told you soo, I told you soo . . ."
"But we have nowhere to live," cried the birds. "They've chopped down our tree."
"Of course," said the owl. "I told you not to live in the tallest, straightest tree, but you wouldn't listen. You thought it would be higher than everyone else and you always laughed at my home. However, you are welcome to stay with me over Christmas."
The old man was moved by the kindness and wisdom of the old owl and wanted to help make Christmas in the old tree a success. He chose a few of the most beautiful stars from his sack and began to decorate the branches. The owl was delighted and the other birds sang as each new star was added. Meanwhile, the children in the village were still waiting. They waited all morning and most of the afternoon.
At last, they set out to look for the old men. But they did not come back.
Later, a search party was sent to look for the children, and finally the whole village went in search of the search party.
They found the search party and the children and the old man and all the animals and birds dancing in the light of the moon. And in the middle stood the most beautiful tree they had ever seen. The villagers hesitated for a second and then they too joined in. The owl officially welcomed the Mayor and villagers to the forest and everyone danced. Then food was brought and at midnight there was carol singing which went on all the way home.
The Christmas Day, and every Christmas afterward, was celebrated in the forest. The villagers and animals hid gifts for each other. The old man made more decorations than ever, and every tree had a star. But best of all, there was no need to chop down any more of the tallest, straightest trees in the forest.