After breakfast, Little Pine put the big fun bubble that the Spirits of Fun had sent for the elves in a pine cone basket and set off to find them. That wasn’t always easy, particularly this time of year. They could be anywhere in the woods decorating the stumps of fallen trees with bits of fungus and moss. On Festival Day, all the squirrels and chipmunks would come to use them as drums during the Grand March and the elves always made sure that the drums looked as wonderful as they sounded.
He stuffed his pockets with more of the fun bubbles to pass out to anyone else he met along the way. He would go to the elves’ house first. Even if they were out working, he could give a fun bubble to Mother Elf, and she might know where he could look for them. Besides, she would probably be baking treats for the festival, and she just might offer him a taste or two.
He was just two bends of the trail away from the Elf house when a flicker of color caught his eye. And what he saw stopped him in his tracks. “Wow! Hello!” he said to one of the prettiest little creatures he ever saw. “My name is Little Pine. Who are you?”
“Hello, Little Pine,” the fragile creature smiled. “I’m Princess Rose, one of the flower fairies of the roses. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Have you come for the Festival?” Little Pine asked. “I hope you’re not looking for your roses. I’m afraid they’re all sound asleep this time of year.”
“Yes, Little Pine, I am here for the Festival. And while it’s true that all the wild roses are deep in their winter dreams, in the nearby land where humans live, some roses grow even this time of year. The humans keep them warm and fed in their own little indoor gardens.
“Humans have a special place in their hearts for flowers, and they’re especially fond of roses. They give them as gifts to each other to celebrate all kinds of lovely things—love, friendship, achievements, the birth of babies. And they give them as gifts of comfort in times of sorrow.
“They have their own versions of the Festival of Light and they will be sending roses to each other by the thousands. My job is to encourage the roses to bloom their brightest and to give off their best perfumes, and to thank them for the beauty and joy they add to the world.
“But while I was in the area this year, I thought I’d stop in and visit your woods. Your Festival is quite famous, you know. I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
“That’s wonderful!” Little Bear said. “Maybe you would like to be a part of the Grand March. It happens at the very start of Festival Day, the day the Light returns. All the creatures of the woods wind through the trees to the waterfall, and from there around the pond to the feet of Grandfather Pine, our eldest tree, and everyone joins in a song about the triumph of the light. Do you think that you would like to join us?”
“That would be splendid, Little Pine! Yes, I’ll gladly accept your gracious invitation, thank you. I’ll see you again before them, I’m sure. But right now I have to be off. I’m meeting some of the other flower fairies for tea.”
“They’re welcome to be in the Grand March, too,” said little Pine. “Please be sure to extend an invitation to them. I offer it on behalf of all the creatures of the woods.”
“Why, thank you! I’ll do that, Little Pine. Until we meet again, may your eyes see beauty and your heart feel love.”
“Same to you, Princess Rose. Oh! And here, take this,” Little Pine said, reaching into his pocket for a fun bubble.
As soon as he handed it to her, it burst into a shower of laughter and sparkling pink, coral, red, white and yellow lights that looked like tiny roses. “Happy Festival, Princess!” said Little Bear as he skipped off down the trail.
“Happy Festival, Little Pine!” she laughed as she fluttered her rosy wings and flew away, a shower of laughing lights trailing behind her.