It was nearly Christmas. Mrs. Minerva, who lived alone in an upstairs apartment, got out the green plastic tree that she decorated every year. She stood the tree up in the corner of her living room. Then she sat down in her rocker and stared at it. Its branches were all bent out of shape.
“Little tree,” she said, “I’ve been happy with you for many years. But this year you look all worn-out. Anyway, I’m getting too old for a Christmas tree. I’ll just set you by the trash can and let them take you away.”
Tony lived on the floor below Mrs. Minerva. When he went outside to play that morning, he saw the tree by the trash can. “Wow!” he yelled. “What a lucky find!”
Tony dragged the tree to his apartment. He leaned it against the wall near the door. Then his mother called him inside.
Carl lived across the street from Tony. When he saw the old bent tree, he decided to fix it. In the sandpile behind his house, he found his big red pail. He filled the pail with sand and took it across the street.
Carl stuck the Christmas tree into the sand in the red pail. Then he fixed the bent branches.
The tree looked a lot better, and Carl felt good. But he did not want Tony to know who had fixed the Christmas tree, so he ran home.
Soon Karen came skipping home from school. Karen lived with her father in the apartment next to Tony. She saw the little plastic tree by Tony’s door. She thought, There’s a pretty green tree in a bright red pail. But it’s very plain.
That night Karen cut and pasted busily. She popped popcorn too. By bedtime, the table was full of red and white felt candy canes, foil stars, paper snowflakes, cotton snowmen, and popcorn chains.
Before she went to school the next morning, Karen decorated the tree with all the things she had made. Now it looked beautiful—just as a Christmas tree should!
When Tony went outside, his eyes lit up. “Mother! Mother!” he called. “Come see the magic Christmas tree. It was just an old, bent plastic tree yesterday. But now it’s a beautiful Christmas tree!”
And it was both beautiful and magic. Everyone who went by that day looked at the tree. Babies and little children laughed with joy when they saw it. Unhappy people smiled. People who didn’t know each other called out, “Merry Christmas!” as they passed.
On Christmas Eve, Carl, Tony, and Karen all went outside to look at the tree. Tony was happy that he had saved the tree from the trash. Carl was happy that he had fixed the tree and put it into his red pail. Karen was happy that she had made all the pretty things and hung them on the tree.
The children heard a noise above them. Looking up, they saw Mrs. Minerva. She was opening her window for some fresh air. An idea came to each of the children at the same time. Karen said, “Why don’t we take the Christmas tree up to Mrs. Minerva. She looks sad. Maybe its magic will make her happy again.”
And so they did. Carl and Tony carried the tree carefully up the steps. Karen ran ahead and rang Mrs. Minerva’s doorbell.
“Merry Christmas!” they cried when she opened the door. “Here is a Christmas tree for you.”
“What a beautiful tree!” Mrs. Minerva said. She did not know that it was her own old tree because it had changed so much.
When Mrs. Minerva saw the beautiful Christmas tree, she did feel much happier. She hurried to get glasses of milk for Karen and Carl and Tony. And she got a big plateful of cookies.
“This will be the best Christmas I’ve had in a long, long time,” she told the children. “That is a magic Christmas tree.”
And she was right.