A Moment in London’s History – The first Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree…

The Trafalgar Square tree in 2019. PICTURE: SHansche/iStockphoto.
The 1947 Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. PICTURE: Open Government Licence/National Archives.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.

The native spruce has been a gift from the people of the city of Oslo – the capital of Norway – to the people of Britain since 1947, presented as a thank you for the support given Norway during World War II.

Special permission had to be given for the 40 foot high tree to be illuminated. The Ministry of Fuel decided to do so on the basis that “the lighting will not be for business purposes: the tree is classed as ‘a charitable gift’ – a goodwill gift to cheer London.”

A sizeable crowd gathered to witness the lights being turned on.

Among the official party was the Ambassador of Norway. He told the crowd that the tradition of a Norwegian Christmas Tree in London started when King Haakon VII was residing in London during World War II.

The ambassador said that each year during the king’s residency, the Norwegian Navy undertook an operation to bring a tree from Norway for the King so he could celebrate Christmas “looking on a Christmas tree grown on Norwegian soil”.

In 2016, UCL academic Ingrid A Medby described the annual presenting of the tree as a “diplomatic gesture”, “a token of gratitude” and a “symbol of geopolitical ties”.

This year’s 21 metre-high tree had its 500 lights illuminated on 1st December (the tree is traditionally lit on the first Thursday in December), It had been chopped down on 19th November in the Nordmarka forests near Oslo and travelled 1,000 miles by land and sea to reach Trafalgar Square.

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