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Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, a gift from Norway

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The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree is a Christmas tree donated to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo, Norway each year since 1947. The tree is prominently displayed in Trafalgar Square from the beginning of December until 6 January.

Trafalgar Square Christmas tree2 - Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, a gift from Norway
By Mike Fleming – originally posted to Flickr as Trafalgar Square, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6351265

History

The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree has been an annual gift to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo as a token of gratitude for British support to Norway during the Second World War.

The tree remains until just before the Twelfth Night of Christmas when it is taken down for recycling. The tree is chipped and composted, to make mulch.

The Tree

The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is typically a 50- to 60-year-old Norway spruce, generally over 20 metres tall. The tree affectionately named the ‘Queen of the Forest’, is cut in Norway sometime 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. From 2003, it has been the responsibility of Beck & Pollitzer Ltd. to transport, guard and erect the tree in Trafalgar Square. It is then decorated in a traditional Norwegian style and adorned with 500 white lights.

Trafalgar Square Christmas tree8 - Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, a gift from Norway
By Laura Bittner – originally posted to Flickr as tree in trafalgar square, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6351369

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.

Lighting ceremony and carolling

The tree lighting ceremony in Trafalgar Square takes place on the first Thursday in December and is attended by thousands of people. The ceremony, led by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, includes a band and choir followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights. Traditionally, the tree provides a focal point for Christmas carolling groups. For many in London, the tree and the accompanying carolling signals the countdown to Christmas.

Since 2009, the Poetry Society has commissioned new poems annually for display on banners around the base of the tree. In 2010, schoolchildren also performed one of the poems at the lighting-up ceremony.

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