December 12#: Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree – London4 min read
From its Puritan roots to complaints of rampant commercialism, Christmas around the world is been filled with traditions, old and new. Some date back to 16th-century Germany or even ancient Greek times, while others have caught on only in modern times.
And, among them, Christmas trees are one of the most popular, now all over the world.
Their tradition is long and rich, and has resulted in some modern trees that run the gamut from breathtakingly beautiful, encapsulating everything that Christmas stands for, to something simply weird.
Thus, If you need a little help to get into the holiday spirit this year, get yourself a winter drink with some holiday treats and a tour of the world’s best or most unusual Christmas trees. These towering pines (or sand or bottle piles, in some cases) are decked to the nines and shine brightly for holiday season, from Florida, Brazil, Mexico all the way to Lithuania.
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Traditionally, on the first Thursday in December, a huge Christmas tree is lit in London’s Trafalgar Square, radiating its Yuletide joy in all directions.
What you might not know, is that the tree has travelled all the way from Nordmarka outside of Oslo.
Yes, Oslo, in Norway.
The whole fact would seem exceptional, with its about four tonnes of weight and around thirty metres of height, but the tree is merely the last to a long tradition that started all the way back in 1947.
During the Second World War, Great Britain was Norway’s closest ally.
This was where the Norwegian King and government fled as their country was occupied, and it was right from London that much of Norway’s resistance movement was organised.
Both the BBC and its Norwegian counterpart NRK would broadcast in Norwegian from London, something that was both an important source of information and a boost of morale for those who remained in Norway, where people would listen in secret.
That’s because radios were, of course, forbidden by law by the occupants.
And, after the war, Norway began sending a pine tree to London every year as a thank you.
The first tree was cut down by Mons Urangsvåg in 1942 during a raid on the Norwegian island called Hisøy, on the west coast between Bergen and Haugesund. After it was cut down, the tree was then transported to England where the Norwegian King was in exile, and given to him as a gift. It is possible to visit the island of Hisøy but only by boat, and from the old tree stump, a new tree has since grown.
Here’s what that looked like the first time, in 1947.
A few years back, The Guardian journalist Christian House travelled to join the hunt for the Christmas tree and experience what the snow-covered forest area surrounding Oslo, known as “Oslomarka”, has to offer.
A truly wild area, populated with moose, lynx, roe deer, and even some wolf.
If you’re visiting and want a preview of what could be next year’s tree, a hike through Nordmarka is well recommended. And while you explore the picturesque outskirts of Oslo (only a 20-minute metro ride from the city centre), you might also want to do as House and visit both Frognerseteren and the top of the Holmenkollen ski jump, a view he describes literally as “almost spiritual”.
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is typically a 50- to 60-year-old Norway spruce, generally over 20 metres tall, cut in Norway some time in November during a ceremony attended by the British Ambassador to Norway, Mayor of Oslo, and Lord Mayor of Westminster.
After the tree is cut, it is shipped to the UK by boat across the sea.
It is decorated in a traditional Norwegian style and adorned with 500 white lights and, at the base of the tree, stands a plaque, bearing the words:
“This tree is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.”
Traditionally, the tree provides a focal point for Christmas carolling groups.
And, in fact, for many locals, the tree and the accompanying carolling signals the countdown to Christmas.
It is prominently displayed in Trafalgar Square from on the first Thursday in December until 6 January.
Images from web – Google Research