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Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is 65 today!

Last night, the lights on the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square were be turned on. The big lighting up ceremony always takes place on the first Thursday in December at 6pm promptly, with lots of pomp, ceremony and VIPs.

This is the 65th year running that Trafalgar Square has had a Christmas tree and will remain, lit, from noon until midnight every day, until ‘twelfth night’ on January 6th, when it will be taken down, chipped, composted and used as mulch around the parks and gardens of the City of Westminster. The 20m (60ft), 46 year old Norwegian Spruce has been on a long journey to arrive at this point.

The Christmas tree is selected by the forestry workers in the forest of Østmarka, just outside Oslo, months or maybe years before it is due to take its starring role in Trafalgar Square. They often fondly refer to the tree as ‘the queen of the forest’. This year on November 18th the tree was felled amid a ceremony attended by the British Ambassador, with the Mayor of Oslo and the Lord Mayor of Westminster making the first, initial ceremonial cut. The tree is then carefully felled by the forestry workers who have cared for the tree all its life. Carols before and after the tree is felled are sung by local school children from Lutvann primary school. The tree is then carefully loaded up by crane onto a very large flat-bed truck and is transported by sea to the UK where the final leg of the journey is on the back of another big flat-bed truck. The Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square is then craned into place, decorated by municipal workers and a cherry picker, with over 500 low emission, energy saving, white halogen lights which are arranged in the Norwegian tradition of straight, vertical lines from top to bottom.

As many of you already know, this tree is given to the people of London by the city of Oslo, Norway in gratitude for our assistance’ during 1940-1945. There is a plaque placed beneath the tree stating this. The less diplomatic explanation of this, is that during the 2nd World War, when Nazi Germany were invading Norway, King Haakon VII fled his country and was welcomed into Britain, where he set up a Norwegian government in exile. Britain welcomed many more Norwegians who fled across the sea to the safety of the British Isles and therefore this is the reason for their annual generous gift.

Last year the Christmas tree was set alight by protestors during the student riots, but due to the tree being fresh and therefore difficult to burn, there was little damage. Hopefully this year’s tree will have a less dramatic experience and will have to endure nothing more than some overzealous festive seasonal cheer.

 

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