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December 15#: Martin Place Christmas Tree – Sydney, Australia

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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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Some Australian songwriters and authors have occasionally depicted Santa in “Australian”-style clothing including an Akubra hat, with warm-weather clothing and thongs, and riding in a ute pulled by kangaroos.
The tradition of sending Christmas cards is widely practised in Australia, where Christmas Day and New Years Day are public holidays, along with Boxing Day (except in South Australia).
Proclamation Day (28 December) is also a public holiday now held on 26 December to provide uniformity with other states.

Well, in any case, in Sydney, Australia, Christmas is magic.
Christmas decorations, including native flora, Christmas trees, tinsel, baubles and illuminations, have been used to decorate the city’s streets and buildings since the late nineteenth century.
The decorations were one way to encourage locals to visit the shops in the city centre for their Christmas shopping and, especially from the early twentieth century onwards, and were also used to inspire charity.
In the twentieth century, Christmas trees have been a focus of activity, both charitable and celebratory. The installation of the Christmas tree in Martin Place is, however, a relatively recent tradition, that began after Martin Place was closed to cars and converted to a pedestrian-only space in 1971.
Its precursor was the charity Christmas tree which was associated with the annual Carols by Candlelight celebrations and stood in Hyde Park near the ANZAC War Memorial.
The first Carols by Candlelight, in 1946, was organised by radio station 2UW and newspapers The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph to raise funds for the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children in Redfern.
The newspaper Daily Mirror sponsored the Hyde Park Christmas tree in the early 1960s and, in 1961, the tree was lit by the Lord Mayor, Harry Jensen.
The tradition of the lord mayor lighting the Christmas tree continues today at Martin Place.

In the early twentieth century, Martin Place, like other Sydney streets, was decked out with Christmas bush and Christmas bells.
However, it was not until December 1971 that a Christmas tree was installed in Martin Place, just three months after motor traffic had been removed and it had been transformed into a pedestrian area.
Since then, each year, the trees were sponsored by various commercial organisations for example, in 1972 it was sponsored by Coca Cola.

From 1971 through to 1975, the Christmas trees were real, acquired through the NSW Forestry Commission, usually from one of the state forests near Lithgow. But real trees presented certain problems, because they browned and dropped needles soon after installation and so, in 1976, Sydney City Council approved the construction of a 20.1 metre tall artificial Christmas tree.
A replacement tree was purchased from Sydney Harbour Casino sometime before 2000.
In that year, the Martin Place Christmas tree, standing at 33 metres tall, was claimed to be largest in the Southern Hemisphere, draped in nine kilometres of lights. It took 10 days to assemble it.

The Christmas tree continues to occupy this section of Martin Place, every year.
It is decorated with more than 110,000 LED lights, a 3.4-metre colour-changing star and 330 specially created glossy baubles.
The tree’s 800 branches are dressed with 15,000 flowers representing 9 different kinds of Australian flowers: banksia, waratah, bottlebrush, wattle, eucalyptus gum flower, kangaroo paw, flannel flower, pink wax flower and white wax flower.
4,104 warm white icicle fairy lights will span across Martin Place, see the 6 strings of lights, each hosting a large star.

Images from web – Google Research

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