Trafalgar Square, London
The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square has been a gift from Norway to London every year since 1947. It symbolises Norway’s enduring friendship and gratitude for Britain’s support during World War II. Grown in the forests around Oslo, the tree, a Norwegian spruce (Picea abies), is between 50 and 60 years old, 20 to 25 metres tall and affectionately dubbed, “the queen of the forest”.
In November, the tree is felled in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British ambassador to Norway and the Mayor of Oslo before being transported to London by lorry and ferry. At Trafalgar Square the tree is erected by a specialist team of riggers using a hydraulic crane and decorated in the Norwegian tradition with vertical strings of lights.
For many Londoners, the official lighting of the tree signals the countdown to Christmas and is the focus for carol singing in the evenings by many groups raising money for voluntary and charitable organisations.
For further information: www.london.gov.uk/
Prince Albert’s Tree
We have Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband, to thank for popularising what has become our traditional Christmas tree. The tradition of decorating a fir tree and bringing it into the house as part of Christmas celebrations had long been established in Germany but hadn’t particularly caught on in Britain until Prince Albert installed a decorated tree in Windsor Castle in 1941. Perhaps Prince Albert was feeling nostaligic for his homeland and childhood.
The tree was made famous by a drawing of "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle" published in 1848 in the Illustrated London News which showed the royal family gathered cosily around the decorated tree. Who could resist such an idylic scene? No wonder Christmas trees soon became an important part of Christmas celebrations.
The Wilderness Tree, Tasmania
Few people can have celebrated the new millennium with such individuality as Geoff Law campaign co-ordinator for the Tasmanian Wilderness Society. He attempted to create the World’s Tallest Christmas Tree in the Styx River Valley and highlight the destruction of the area by logging. The tree, an 80m (262’) tall Eucalyptus regan, some 300 years old with a 5m diameter and 15m circumference, was due to be felled in 2000 along with the rest of the trees in the area.
Geoff and his team of 15 climbers worked for 8 days battling against terrible weather. Rain, sleet, hail and even snow, made branches slippery and unstable and led to worries that they wouldn’t achieve their goal in time. At times they had to work into the night, climbing in complete darkness but despite all the odds, they made it. On the 21st December the world media gathered at the tree now festooned with 3,000 fairy lights, topped by a 2m star, surrounded by presents and complete with a Santa and choir. Sadly, the tree did not enter the Guiness Book of Records due to some technicalites but the story went global and was successful in raising awareness of the need to protect the ancient forests of Tasmania. The tree still stands today.
For further information visit: www.wilderness.org.au