As Christmas approached, the friends, being very poor, worried that they had not the cost of a proper Christmas tree to decorate in celebration of the season. One of the friends, who, although poor, was not only somewhat clever, but was also endowed with a certain amount of ethical flexibility, mentioned that he knew of a tree that could be had for little cost. It was a great, tall tree that stood off in the corner of one of the estate's fields. So one evening he and his friends, along with some sturdy helpers recruited with the promise of free beer, grabbed a saw and went off to hunt spruce. (Or perhaps it was fir. It was a long time ago, and accounts vary.)
The moon shone brightly that night, lighting up the snow covered fields, and their prey was quickly located and felled. The amateur woodsmen hauled the tree back to the manor. They put it in a pot, raised it in the great hall, and stood back to take a look at what they had erected.
"It looked smaller outside," one of them remarked, and they could all see the truth in that statement. The great tree stood near to twenty feet tall, and it was full and bushy, which would make it difficult to get by if they left it where it stood. Also, there was no ladder available to decorate the upper branches of the tree. If left where it stood, the tree they had erected would stand half-naked of ornaments.
The clever friend looked at the tree, then looked about the hall, and noticed that the tree might very well fit in the not-apse. "Ya know," he said, "if we put it over there," (pointing to the not-apse) "the tree would not only be out of the way, but we could also decorate the upper branches from the staircase."
The rest of the friends marveled at his wisdom, and fortified by alcoholic malt beverages, they hauled the great plant to its new resting place. They decorated the tree gaily with tinsel, lights, and anatomically correct gingerbread people, turning it, as necessary, to face the stairs so that more items could be hung on its branches, and they rejoiced at how sparkly it looked. They ate, drank, and were merry, they played music, danced, and drank more. It was a wonderful party, and one of the best Christmases ever.
Now, given the amount of industry displayed by the group of friends in acquiring and decorating the Best Christmas Tree Ever™, you would think they would generally be an energetic lot. Sadly, nothing could be further from truth. The fact is, they were a terribly lazy bunch, and lacked the common sense God gave a hedgehog. Once the Christmas season was over, they didn't take down the tree. Rather, they left it in the not-apse, where all of its beautiful needles gradually turned brown and fell off. The tinsel remained, but it was never quite the same. By May, as their lease was ending and they prepared to move to new quarters, the Best Christmas Tree Ever™ was a mere spindly skeleton of the once proud spruce it had been (or was it a fir).
Remember the kindly man who owned the manor? Although he no longer lived on the estate, whenever he visited, he enjoyed walking about the property. One day near the end of May, he did just that. There was one special place he always visited. It was the corner of one of the fields where he had, as a boy, once planted a tiny evergreen tree. Over the years, as he grew, so did the tree, and visiting it was one of his favorite things to do. This particular day, when he arrived at the spot, all that remained of his special tree was a lifeless stump. This concerned him muchly, so he decided to visit the manor to see if the group of friends had any information regarding the whereabouts of his tree. He knocked on the door, and the friends, who had always been on friendly terms with their landlord, welcomed him into the house. As he started to inquire about the tree, he noticed the remnants of the Best Christmas Tree Ever™ poking out from the not-apse.
Things got pretty ugly after that, and nobody lived happily ever after.